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SPORT IN THE OLDEN TIME 



BY 



SIR WALTER GILBKY, Bart. 



VINTON & CO., 8 BREAM'S BUILDINGS, CHANCERY LANE, E.G. 



LOAN STACK 
GIFT 



6s- 



INTRODUCTION 



No pastime has ever held in England the 
position which was held for centuries by cock- 
fighting. 

Cock-fighting was, to quote the title of 
an old treatise, "the pleasure of Princes"; 
it was practised by the highest of the nobility and 
by the ht/rf blest peasant. Love of "cocking " 
permeated so^ty from top to bottom 

It is unpleasant to dwell on the shortcomings 
of our ancestors, more especially upon a defect 
which gave zest to their amusements ; for the 
institution whose history is traced in the follow- 
ing pages was hardly less cruel than bull-baiting 
and bear-baiting 

The interest this now discredited institution 
has for us in modern days arises from its former 
popularity. There is no feature of social history 
which sheds so much light upon our ancestors' 
manners, customs and ways of thought 

It is difficult for us to enter into the feelings 
of men who indulged in cock-fighting and 
framed such rules as those which governed the 
conduct of a 4t main " 



048 



Some of these rules betray a callousness almost 
incredible ; but they express the mental attitude 
of a rude age towards physical suffering. The 
rules are what might be expected of the times 
in which cocking flourished 

Men do not realise how far they have travelled 
on the road to humanity within the last hundred 
and fifty years and a hundred and fifty years 
is a short chapter in the history of a nation 

Our laws show the change that has gradually 
come over us. On the 6th April, 1763, Anne 
Bedingfield was burned alive for the murder of 
her husband under the savage law against 
44 petty treason " 

Nowadays the death penalty is seldom in- 
flicted upon a murderess however inhuman her 
crime. A hundred years ago and less the 
appalling condition of our prisons and asylums, 
and the extraordinary combination of brutality 
and neglect with which prisoners and the insane 
were treated make us w r onder whether we are 
reading of days when the fathers of many 
among us were alive 

When men were thus indifferent to the 
sufferings of their fellow creatures it was not 
singular that they should be callous where the 
brute creation was concerned; and perhaps a 



case might have been made out for organised 
cock-fighting in the clays before artificial spurs 
came into use 

It is not necessary to dwell upon the case for 
the defence; it may be admitted that it is in the 
nature of cocks to fight, and that if a bird did 
not choose to fight he could not be forced to do 
it ; but nobody has yet ventured to argue that 
arming cocks with metal spurs was a natural 
proceeding 

The case of the fighting cock was at least a 
degree less unenviable than that of the baited 
bull. His first fight was very often his last, and 
if injured he was carefully nursed and tended 

The unfortunate bull or bear dragged from 
fair to fair covered with neglected wounds 
from the teeth of the dogs set against him 
lived a life of torture from which only age 
or decrepitude released him 

The number of words and phrases in daily 
use prove in striking fashion the place cocking 
occupied in the thoughts of the people 

No amusement, no occupation has furnished 
the English language with so many current ex- 
pressions. "Cocky"; "cocksure" "cock of 
the walk "; " that beats cock-fighting "; "live 
like fighting cocks " bear their origin on the 
face of them 



We use some phrases unconscious of their 
source, but their origin is not less clear : 
" battle royal " still describes a general quarrel ; 
"pounded" is still used on the turf in its old 
cockpit sense of hopelessly beaten 

No cocking phrase is in more frequent use 
than "pit against." To " show a clean pair of 
heels " is referable to the craven cock which ran 
away without striking a blow and showed his 
heels (i.e. spurs) unstained with blood 

The common way of expressing a young 
man's fitness for the Army or the Navy is to 
say he is " cut out " for it, an echo of the cock- 
pit where a bird was " cut out " or clipped for 
battle 

To "die game " is surely a cocking phrase. 
In Mexico and Arizona, and no doubt, in other 
parts of cattle-raising America, a cowboy is said 
to be "heeled" when he carries arms, as the 
fighting cock was said to be " heeled "when the 
spurs, or " heels " were put on him for battle 

Having regard, then, to the place formerly 
held by cock-fighting among the English people, 
it has seemed worth while to compile this brief 
sketch of its history 



CONTENTS 



PAGE 

EARLY COCK-FIGHTING ... ... ... ... ... j 

SHROVETIDE COCKING ... ... ... ... ... 2 

COCK-FIGHTING IN PLANTAGENET TIMES 5 

COCK-FIGHTING IN TUDOR TIMES 6 

ROYAL COCK-PITS 8 

COCK-FIGHTING IN STUART TIMES ... ... ... 13 

GAME-FOWL IN STUART TIMES ... 17 

TRAINING COCKS FOR BATTLE 23 

PROHIBITION OF COCKING BY CROMWELL 27 

CHARLES II AS A COCKER 29 

ROYAL COOKINGS AT NEWMARKET 31 

LONDON COCKING UNDER CHARLES II 35 

PROVINCIAL COCKING ... ... ... ... ... 39 

COCKING IN JAMES IPs REIGN 41 

COCKING IN WILLIAM Ill's REIGN ... ... ... 42 

VARIOUS KINDS OF MAINS ... ... ... ... 44 

COCKING AND RACING ... ... ... ... ... 45 

FIRST RECORD OF ARTIFICIAL SPURS 46 

TRAINING IN QUEEN ANNE'S TIME 47 

"SHAKE-BAGS" ... ... ... ... ... ... 51 

LONDON COCKING IN ANNE'S REIGN 53 

COCKING IN THE GEORGIAN DAYS 56 

GAME-FOWL BREEDING IN GEORGIAN TIMES ... ... 64 

THE COCK FEEDER 69 

MAINS BETWEEN COUNTIES AND TOWNS 70 

RULES OF COCK-FIGHTING 72 

COCK-FIGHTING AND DISORDER 73 

COCKING IN THE MIDLANDS 74 

GEORGE III AND COCKING 75 

LONDON COCKING UNDER GEORGE III 76 

AGITATION AGAINST COCKING 78 



PAGE 

POPULARITY OF COCKING ... ... - - 79 

FAMOUS COCKERS ... ... ... & l 

TRAINING IN GEORGE Ill's TIME 82 

"SUBSCRIPTION" MAINS $5 

COCK-FIGHTING DURING THE REGENCY 86 

COCKING IN GEORGE IV's REIGN 9 2 

LAST DAYS OF COCKING 9 6 

ILLEGAL COCK-FIGHTING ... ... ... .- 9^ 

MODERN SALE OF COCK SPURS ... ... ... 100 

SUPERSTITIONS OF THE COCK-PIT... ... ... ... 101 

MODERN USE OF OLD COCK-PITS 103 



APPENDIX A 
RULES AND ORDE-RS FOR COCKING ... ... ... 104 

APPENDIX B 
GENERAL RULES AND ORDERS FOR COCKING ... ... 108 

APPENDIX C 
THE "MATCH BILL" 112 

APPENDIX D 
RULES FOR COCKING IN ITS LATEST DAYS ... ... 114 

APPENDIX E 

FORM OF ARTICLES FOR A COCK MATCH ... ... 116 



ILLUSTRATIONS 

BRITISH GAME-FOWLS Frontispiece 

GAME-COCKS Facing 

AN OLD PAIR OF "HOTS" 



I'AGK 



24 

GINGER RED AND BIRCHIN YELLOW ,, 35 

THE ROYAL COCK-PIT, BY WM. HOGARTH 5 o 

SET OF Six PAIRS OF SILVER SPURS OR " GAFFLES" ,, 64 

COCK-FIGHTING 70 

THE COCK-PIT ROYAL, 1796 S 2 

TOM HINES, THE BIRMINGHAM COCK-SETTER .. ,, 94 



SPORT IN THE OLDEN TIMES 

EARLY COCK-FIGHTING 

COCK-FIGHTING is said by old writers to have 
been introduced into this country by the Romans, 
who had adopted it from the Greeks 

It is hardly worth while pausing to enquire 
whether this view of the origin of English cock- 
fighting is correct or not; but it may be pointed 
out that cock-fighting has been practised from 
the very earliest times among people who never 
came under either Greek or Roman influence 

Cornish tradition maintains that the Phoeni- 
cians, who came to obtain supplies of tin, intro- 
duced cock-fighting into that part of England, 
and claims for Cornwall the distinction attaching 
to the earliest home of English cocking 

It is highly probable that the natural pug- 
nacity of cocks afforded amusement to the 
inhabitants of this country long before the 
Phoenician traders discovered Britain or the 
Romans invaded us B 



SHROVETIDE COCKING 

The earliest reference to cock-fighting in 
England occurs in William Fitzstephen's Latin 
tract describing London and the amusements 
of the citizens in the time of King Henry II 
(1154-1189). This old writer refers to the 
cocking on Shrove Tuesday which remained 
a schoolboy institution for centuries 

" Every year_also at Shrove Tuesday^ . . . . 
the schoolboys do bring cocks of the game to 
their masters and all the forenoon they delight 
themselves in cock-fighting ; after dinner all 

_ - O ..Q; ' 

the youths go into the fields to play at the ball " 
It is easy to understand why cock-fighting 
should have been considered a peculiarly appro- 
priate amusement for schoolboys. During the 
ages when soldiers met hand to hand in battle, 
personal courage and indifference to pain and 
injury were held in the esteem those qualities 
deserve : and the unflinching valour of the 
game-cock, w T hich would fight to his last gasp, 
furnished an object lesson by which youth 
might profit 

Various records exist to throw sidelights on 
the manner in which the sport was conducted 
in former days 

Queen Elizabeth granted statutes for Hartle- 
bury Grammar School which provided that 



" The school master and ushers shall and may 
have use and take the profits of all such cock- 
fights ... as be commonly used in schools " 

The Congleton (Cheshire) Town accounts 
for the year 1601 show, for example, that John 
Magge was paid fourpence for " dressing" the 
school at the great cock-fight 

Mr. William Henderson* says that the 
master of Sedbergh Grammar School in York- 
shire was entitled to receive fourpence half- 
penny a year from each boy on Shrove 
Tuesday, this being the levy to buy fighting- 
cocks ; the practice continued until the days of 
the Regency 

The regulations of the Kendal Grammar 
School made the establishment free to all boys 
resident in the parish " excepting a voluntary 
payment of a cock penny as aforetime at 
Shrovetide " 

At Grange-over-Sands, custom required the 
parents of the boys at the grammar school to 
contribute according to social standing ; the 
" cock pence " thus given at Shrovetide in the 
early years of the last century ranged from 
half a crown to five pounds 

* Folklore of the Northern Counties of England (1879). 



The school master directed the battles in the 
school or in the pit attached, and the bodies of 
the slain were his perquisite : in this connection 
it may be noticed that the meat of a cock killed 
in fight was held in particular esteem for the 
table. The school master also claimed as his 
perquisite any cock which refused battle when 
put on the pit : this bird was called a " fugee," 
and w T e may safely conjecture had his neck 
wrung without compunction 

The "cock pence" sometimes amounted to 
a considerable sum ; at Applecross, Rosshire, 
in 1792, the minister was the school master and 
the " cock-fight dues " were equal to a quarter's 
payment for each scholar * 

Henry Miller the celebrated geologist, gives f 
a description of cock-fighting at the Cromarty 
Grammar School which he attended. Miller 
was born in the year 1802 ; his remarks there- 
fore apply to the period 1812-15 or thereabout 

14 The school, like almost all other grammar, 
schools in Scotland, had its yearly cock-fight, 
preceded by two holidays and a half during 
which the boys occupied themselves in 
collecting and bringing up the cocks. And 



* Statistical Account of Scotland, Sir John Sinclair (1792). 
I My Schools and School Masters 



5 

such always Was the array of fighting birds 
mustered on the occasion that the day of the 
festival from morning till night used to be 
spent in fighting out the battles 

li For weeks after, the school floor retained 
its deeply stained blotches of blood, and 
the boys would be full of exciting narratives 
regarding the glories of gallant birds who had 
continued to fight until their eyes had been 
pecked out, or who in the moment of victory 
had dropped dead in the cock- pit " 

Shrove Tuesday cocking by schoolboys was 
not a minor feature of the sport. It was an 
institution that contributed much to obtain for 
cock-fighting the place it held for centuries 
among our ancestors. The taste acquired by 
boys in their schooldays remained with them 
throughout life, and the knowledge acquired in 
early years made the cock-pit the natural resort 
of men 

COCK-FIGHTING IN PLANTAGENET TIMES 

There is dearth of information about cocking 
for many years after Fitzstephen wrote. 
The next mention of it occurs in a letter 
written by King Edward III to the Sheriffs of 
London, on i2th June 1365 * 



* History of London. By Wm. Maitland, F.S.A. (1739). 



This letter called upon the City authorities 
to forbid by Proclamation various pastimes of 
which cock-fighting was one ; the object being 
to compel all able-bodied men "at leisure times 
on holidays to ... learn and exercise the art 
of shooting " with long-bow* and cross-bow 

Some authorities assume that this, and later 
prohibitions, indicate disapproval of cocking 
as a sport, but this assumption will not stand ; 
cock-fighting was placed in the category with 
hand-ball, foot-ball, bandy-ball, hockey, and the 
throwing of weights as an amusement which 
distracted attention from the citizen's very 
necessary duty of learning to shoot 

COCK-FIGHTING IN TUDOR TIMES 

As may be supposed, not everyone considered 
cock-fighting a suitable amusement for school- 
boys. When Dr. John Colet, chaplain to 
Henry VIII, established and endowed St. 
Paul's School in i 509, he included among the 
" Ordinances and Appointments " of the new 
school one in these terms : " That the scholars 
use no cock-fighting nor Riding about of 

* The number of ancient yews, the wood of which 
was principally used for making long-bows, remaining 
in the churchyards of England and Wales, shows the 
importance attached to this tree in ancient times ; and 
reflects the importance attached to skill with the 
long-bow 



Victory nor Disputing at St. Bartholomew's ; 
which are but foolish babbling and loss of 
time " 

Dr. Colet was a divine of great force of 
character and held views out of harmony with 
the spirit of his age. When, in 1513, England 
was making active preparation for war with 
France, he asserted that "an unjust peace was 
better than a just war " ; and had the courage 
to preach a sermon in this sense before the 
King and his Court 

There can be no doubt that adults as well as 
youths passed at the cock-pit time that might 
have been better employed ; in 1570, the Court 
of Aldermen in London, being greatly alarmed 
by a visitation of the plague ordered that all 
" masterless men " caught frequenting places 
of common assembly including gaming houses, 
cock-pits and bowling alleys should be banished 
from the City 

The wording of this ordinance points to the 
existence of public cock-pits in London. The 
only place of the kind to which definite 
reference is made was the cock-pit at West- 
minster. This is said to have been built by 
Henry VIII (1509-1547) 

* History of London. By Wm. Maitland, F.S.A. 



ROYAL COCK- PITS 

George Wilson in the earliest known treatise 
on the sport* says that Henry VIII 

" did take such pleasure and wonderful 
delight in the cocks of the game that he 
caused a most sumptuous and stately cock 
pit to be erected in Westminster, wherein 
His Majesty might disport himself with cock 
fighting among his most noble and loving- 
subjects who in like manner did affect that 
pastime so well, and conceived so good an 
opinion of it ... that they caused cock pits 
to be made in many cities, boroughs and 
towns throughout the whole realm " 
In 1619, William Sixth Earl of Derby made 
a cock-pit at Chester in a garden under 
St. Johns. Many pits in various parts of the 
country were built by the local authority of the 
town which wanted one : such were known as 
" Corporation Cock-pits " 

Henry VIII took part in many field sports 
and was much addicted to gaming ; but it is a 
curious fact that his Privy Purse Expenses* t 
covering the period November 152910 Decem- 
ber 1532, contain no single mention of money 

* The Commendation of Cocks and Cock-fighting. By 
George Wilson of Wretton in Norfolk (1607). 

f By Sir H. N. Nicolas 



paid in connection with cock-fighting. There 
are numerous entries of sums paid into " the 
hand of the King's Grace " for gaming : his 
losses at dice, cards, " tables," shovelboard, 
" Pope July game," and shooting matches are 
recorded ; the sums paid to falconers, pheasant 
breeders, to horse trainers and the riding boys 
of the royal racing stables are set down, but 
there is no mention of cocking 

The absence of payments in connection with 
cocking or the cock-pit seems to indicate that 
Henry VIII did not take any personal part in 
the sport 

Before going further it is well to point out 
that there were three cock-pits at Westminster 
at different times. The earliest, that attributed 
to Henry VIII, was part of Whitehall Palace, 
and occupied the site of the present official 
residence of the first Lord of the Treasury 
No. 10 Downing Street. The building was 
used as a theatre by King Henry VI IPs 
successors Queen Elizabeth, King James I 
and King Charles I 

In those days the street we know as White- 
hall did not exist ; the grounds of Whitehall 
Palace were bounded by the Thames on the one 
side, and on the other lay the Park, on whose 
northern side stood St. James's Palace 



10 

The cock-pit gave its name to a whole group 
of buildings including residential quarters. 
When, in 1683, Princess Anne of York was 
married to Prince George of Denmark, the 
uncle of the bride, Charles II, gave her " that 
adjunct of Whitehall which was called the 
cock-pit " as a residence * 

Whitehall Palace was destroyed by fire in 1 697, 
and a Privy Council room was built on the site of 
the buildings which had included the old cock -pit 
It is an interesting example of the tenacity 
of names that Treasury papers for over a 
hundred years after this Privy Council room 
was built were often headed "The Cock-pit," 
while in popular language the Privy Council 
itself was sometimes called " The Cock-pit " 
so recently as the year 1806 f 

The Westminster cock-pit was at the north- 
western end of Dartmouth Street ; this was the 
scene of battles for a long period of years until 
1816, when it was pulled down. The " Cock- 
pit steps " out of Birdcage Walk remain to 
indicate the site. The ground whereon the 
Westminster cock-pit stood was owned by 
Christ's Hospital ; and on the day the lease 
expired the Governors and Trustees met at the 

* Strickland's Queens of England 

'\ MSS. of the Earl of Lonsdale. Hist. MSS. Comm. 



II 

cock-pit to pass the resolution that the sport 
should immediately cease on their property * 

Cockers then built by subscription " the 
Royal Cock-pit " in Tufton Street, which 
remained their head-quarters until 1833, when 
it was made illegal f to keep a house for cock- 
fighting in London 

The Plumpton Letters afford us a glimpse of 
cocking at the end of Henry VIIl's reign. 
Sir Henry Saville writes on 5th May, 1546, to 
v his cousin Plumpton asking him to come to 
Sheffield and " see our good cocks fight, if it 
please you to see the manner of our cocking. 
There will be Lancashire of one part and 
Derbyshire of another part and Hallamshire of 
the third part. I perceive your cocking varieth 
from ours for ye lay but the battle ; and if our 
battle be but ^10 to ^"5, there will be ^10 to 
one lay or the battle be ended " 

From which it appears that even at this date 
cock-matches between counties were in voinie. 

o 

During Queen Elizabeth's reign (1558-1603) 
cocking flourished. In Philip Stubbes' Ana- 
tomy of Abuses, published 1583, we read that 
" people flocked thick and three-fold to the 
cock-fights " which were held on appointed 



* Light Come, Light Go. By Ralph Nevill (1909) 
f 3 Wm. IV, C. 19, sec 29 



12 

days, Sunday being one. The cock match at 
a public pit was announced by "hanging out 
flags and ensigns to give notice of it " ; also 
" proclamation goes out to proclaim the same " ; 
by which it will no doubt be correct to under- 
stand that the entertainment was announced by 
the street crier 

Philip Stubbes has been called "the first of 
the Puritans." He attacked all the amuse- 
ments of the age, with the greater vigour 
because Sunday when fairs and markets were 
held was the great clay of the week for bear- 
baiting, cocking, hawking, hunting and the like 

The old moralist goes to extremes in his anger, 
including football among what he calls "devilish 
pastimes " ; but it is for cocking that he reserves 
his worst epithets. In the cock-pit "nothing 
is used but swearing, forswearing, deceit, fraud, 
collusion, cozenage, scolding, railing, convitious 
talking, fighting, brawling, quarrelling, drinking, 
and w r hich is worst of all robbing of one 
another of their goods and that not by direct but 
indirect means." This last refers to betting, 
concerning which Stubbes held very strong 
opinions 

The attitude towards cocking of Roger 
Ascham, a famous scholar of this period, was 
representative of the vast majority. Ascham 



was tutor to the Princess Elizabeth 1548-1550, 
and filled the same office in 1558 when she 
became Queen. In his work "The School- 
master," he avowed his love of cock-fighting 
and his intention of writing "a Book of the 
Cock-pit" in which "all kinds of pastimes fit 
for a gentleman " should be described 

Unfortunately Ascham did not live to carry 
out his purpose. Camden attributes the poverty 
in which Roger Ascham passed his later clays 
to excessive indulgence in cocking and dicing 

George Wilson, to whose work on cocking 
reference has already been made, appears to 
have had Stubbes' diatribe in mind when he 
wrote twenty-four years later. The opening- 
passages read as though they had been penned 
in direct refutation of Stubbes' charges. 
Wilson's book, however, referring as it does to 
cocking in the days of James I, must be 
noticed in a fresh chapter 

COCK-FIGHTING IN STUART TIMES 

George Wilson is at pains to declare that 
the atmosphere of the cock-pit was one of 
order and fair dealing : 

" In this pleasant exercise there is no 
collusion, deceit, fraud or cozenino- tolerated, 



nor any used (as in most other games and 
pastimes customarily there is), neither is 
there any brawlings or quarrels suffered in 
those places ; but all men must there use 
civil and good behaviour what degree or 
calling soever he be of" 

Swearing and blasphemy were strictly 
forbidden, and offenders were liable to punish- 
ment prescribed by the nobility 

Wilson was a country gentleman, and he 
wrote of the sport as it was carried on in the 
eastern counties. The "nobility" referred to 
were those who pitted their birds in the royal 
cock-pit at Westminster, and set the fashion. 
No mention is made of rules for the sport itself, 
evidently none had yet been found necessary 

This writer's account of the enthusiasm 
roused by the successes at Bury St. Edmunds 
of a cock called Gipsey, bred by himself, sheds 
interesting light on the position cock-fighting 
then held in England. This bird 

" fought so courageously, that after many 
admirable and almost incredible acts achieved 
by him, divers gentlemen, my very good 
friends, in commendation of him, caused 
his picture to be drawn and painted 



upon a cloth, whereupon these, or the like, 
words were written : 

O noble Gipsey such a cock art thou, 
As Bury Town did ne'er contain till now ; 
Wherefore to praise thy worth and spread 

thy fame 
We make this show in honour of thy name 

"So soon as the painted cloth was thus 
finished the cock was put into a pretty fine 
cage which two men carried betwixt them, 
the cloth being borne a good distance before 
them ; and in this wise, having the w^aits 
(band) of the town with us, the trained 
soldiers, the cock masters and clivers others, 
we marched to and fro throughout the whole 
town ; which being clone we returned to the 
cock-pit again where the cock was no sooner 
set down but all the soldiers discharged their 
pieces over him, which w T e thought would 
have daunted and discouraged him for ever ; 
yet notwithstanding all the noise they made, 
he was nothing dismayed, but in the very 
middle of the volley of shot he clapped his 
wings and crowed " 

A famous fighting cock in those clays was 
regarded much as a great race horse is regarded 
in our own time 



16 

Stowe, in his Survey of London, 1603, says ; 
" Cocks of the game are yet cherished by 
diverse men for their pleasure, much money 
being laid on their heads when they fight in 
pits, whereof some be costly made for that 
purpose " 

Cock-fighting about this time would have 
received stimulus, if any were needed, from the 
patronage of royalty. James I (1603-1625) 
was particularly fond of it. Mons. Le Fevre de 
la Boclerie, French Ambassador to England 
from 1606 to 1611, says that the King amused 
himself with cocking, regularly two days a 
\veek 

When the King paid a visit to Lincoln in 
1617 cocking formed one of the diversions 
arranged for his amusement. On Wednesday, 
2nd April, in that year " His Majesty did come 
in his caroche (coach) to the sign of the George 
by the Stonebow to see a cocking there, where 
he appointed four cocks to be put on the pit 
together, which made his Majesty very merry " * 

Here perhaps was the crude beginning of 
that form of cock-fighting afterwards known as 
the u Battle Royal " to which reference will be 
made later 

* MSS. of the Corporation of Lincoln. Hist. MSS. Comm. 



GAME-FOWL IN STUART TIMES 

During James I's reign, the first instructive 

book on the subject was published. Wilson's 

work, already noticed, consisted largely of 

quotations from Greek and Roman writers, and 

was what its title declared : a book in praise of 

cocking ; it contained little practical information. 

The work now under notice was of a different 

character : it was written by Gervaise Markham 

in 1614, and its title "The Pleasure of 

Princes " plainly refers to James I's love of the 

sport. Like Wilson, Markham begins with a 

few lines in praise of the sport for its purity : 

" Since there is no pleasure more noble 7 

delightsome or void of cozenage (free from 

trickery) and deceit than this pleasure of 

cocking is ; and since many of the best 

wisdoms of our nation have been pleased to 

participate with the delights therein, I think 

it not amiss ... to declare in a few lines 

the election, breeding and secrets of dieting 

the fightino- cock, which, having been con- 

o o o 

cealed and unwritten of, is for our pleasure 
sake as worthy a general knowledge as any 
delight whatsoever 

Markham proceeds to describe the character 
and qualities to be sought in the " cock for 
battle." The first point to be considered was 



18 

the size ; cocks too large or too small were 
condemned, those of middle size being recom- 
mended as "most matchable, strong, nimble 
and ready for your pleasure." The huge cock 
was not only difficult to match : it was 
"lubberly and afforded small pleasure in his 
battle." 

Such over-sized birds at this period were 
called " turn-pokes " (a term which at a 
somewhat later date was replaced by u shake- 
bags ") a sufficiently expressive way of describ- 
ing the bird, which was released by turning the 
bag or poke upside down on the pit 

The undersized cock was also objected to as 
hard to match; the bird of average size was 
sure to find opponents 

The fighting cock, according to Markham, 
should be " of a proud and upright shape with 
a small head like unto a spar-hawk (sparrow 
hawk), a quick large eye and a strong beak, 
crooked and big at the setting on " ; the colour 
of the beak should match that of the plumage, 
as also the colour of the legs, which we're to be 
*' very strong in the beam." The spurs, long, 
rough and sharp, and a little bending and 
looking inwards 

o 

It is of interest to notice the colours- 
indicative of strain or breeding which were 



preferred at this time ; also to compare their 
small number with the wealth of prized strains, 
which were developed as time went on and the 
importance of careful breeding became more 
and more generally recognised 

Markham says that the best were u the grey 
pile, the yellow pile or else red with the black 
breast." The pied bird was not esteemed, 
"and the white and dun are the worst." The 
*' red with the black breast " were without 
doubt the strain known at a later date as the 
" black reel " 

Redness above the head indicated lust, 
strength and courage ; pallor the reverse ; but 
the principal clue to a bird's courage lay in the 
way he moved ''the pricle of his going" in 
the walk, and by the frequency of his crowing 
in the pen 

Breeders at this period crossed their game 
fowl with the common barn-door breeds ; the 
theory was that in such crossing all depended 
on the hen : u the perfect hen from a Dunghill 
cock will bring a good chicken ; but the best 
cock from a Dunghill hen can never get a good 
bird." He cites the two most famous cocks 
that ever fought in his time, Noble and 
Grissell, which from ill-bred hens begat many 
very bad cocks. Markham adds that it is of 



20 

course preferable to breed from pure blood on 
both sides 

Wilson ; already quoted, condemns half-bred 
cocks altogether 

Markham's advice on the treatment of the 
hen is worth notice : March was held the best 
month in which to breed game-fowl ; >v one 
March bird is ever better w r orth than three at 
any other season." The delicate constitution 
of the birds is insisted on ; the nest, of soft 
and clean straw, was to be in some warm place, 
and the hen carefully tended that she might not 
leave her eggs too long uncovered : the chicks 
first hatched were to be wrapped in wool and 
kept near the fire, until the rest of the eggs 
hatched out, when the brood was to be restored 
to the hen, and all kept very warm, " for they 
be so tender (delicate) that the least cold will 
kill them " 

Hen and brood were kept indoors in a large 
room with a boarded floor till the chicks were 
a month old ; feeding on oatmeal, cheeseparings. 
" chilter meat " and the like. After the first 
month the chicks might be allowed to run in 
some grass court, where there were no foul 
puddles or dirty water, such being the u greatest 
poison " to game-fowl 



2 I 

When the chicks were old enough to distin- 
guish sexes, the beginnings of combs and 
wattles were cut away and seared close, the 
sores being anointed with butter until the place 
healed. "' This will make them have fine, 
small, slender and smooth heads ; whereas to 
suffer the comb to grow to his bigness and then 
cut it away, will make him have a gouty thick 
head with great lumps " 

The chickens were separated when they 
began to peck at one another, and sent to 
separate walks 

Here it may be observed that until compara- 
tively recent times, landlords used to insert in 
leases a clause binding tenants to run game- 
cocks for them. It may be doubted whether 
such clauses were very necessary in the clays 
when cock-fighting was every man's sport. 
Tenants would be only too eager to receive 
and care for a well-bred fighting cock 

Much stress was laid on the necessity for 
isolating game-birds from common poultry : 
the sitting hen was kept where the barn-yard 
fowls could not disturb her ; and when the 
young birds were old enough to be sent to 
their walks, the quietest places were held the 
best: "Wind-mills or Water-mills, Grange- 
houses and such like, where he (the cock) may 



22 

live with his hens without the offence or 
company of other cocks " 

The cock master always fed his birds on soft 
ground, that their beaks might not be blunted 
by contact with stones 

The cock that began to crow before he was 
six months old, or crowed at unseasonable 
times, was not esteemed : premature or irregular 
crowing being held a symptom of cowardice. 
" For the true cock is very long before he gets 
his voice and when he hath it he observes his 
hour with the best judgement " 

Three hens were considered enough to run 

o 

with one cock 

Special attention was devoted to the perches 
in the roost : it was to be thick as a man's arm 
and level, a thin, crooked, or ill-placed perch 
tending to make the bird " uneven heeled " 
when he would never be a good striker. " The 
perches should be near the ground and short so 
that your cock may with care go up to them, and 
being set, must of force (perforce) have his legs 
stand near together, for it is a rule that he 
which is a close sitter is ever a narrow (accurate) 
striker.'' The ground below the perches should 
be soft that the birds might not hurt their feet 
in jumping clown 



TRAINING COCKS FOR BATTLE 

At two years old the cock was considered 
ready to fight, "complete in every member"; 
and the process of training began 

The old cock masters had their own methods 
of feeding and preparing birds for battle, and 
were very secretive about them, with good 
reason ; an untrained cock would have as little 
chance against a trained bird as an untrained 
horse against one which has undergone proper 
preparation. 

The birds to be trained were taken up 
at the end of August (from which time till 
the end of May was the cocking season) 
and, being " sound, hard feathered and full 
summed " were put into separate pens ; each 
pen about tw r o feet square and three feet 
in height, barred and made to open in front, 
the sides close boarded so that one cock should 
not be able to see his neighbours 

The training in Markham's time lasted six 
weeks. During the first three or four days 
the cock was fed on ''old maunchet" (the best 
white bread) cut into small pieces, a large 
handful three times a clay ; four days of this 
diet was held enough to scour him thoroughly. 
This preliminary dieting over, the cock had his 



first bout of sparring with another, the spurs of 
either bird being muffled in " hots " which 
were '' soft bumbastecl rolls of leather " so that 
they could not hurt one another 

After the sparring bout, which took place in 
the early morning at the time when, ordinarily, 
food was given, the bird was 4< sweated," i.e., put 
into a basket made for the purpose, covered 
with straw and allowed to " stove and sweat." 
Before he was put into the '* stove," he was 
given a condiment made of butter, rosemary 
finely chopped and white sugar candy mixed 
together, as large as a man's thumb. After 
four o'clock in the afternoon the bird was taken 
out, and his head and eyes having been licked 
over with the cock master's tongue, he was 
restored to his pen and received his first meal 
that clay 

The bread used during the training was of a 
special kind, made of wheatmeal and oatmeal 
mixed into a stiff paste, with ale, eggs and 
butter ; this dough was well worked up, rolled 
out into thin cakes and kept for three or four 
days before use. Some cock masters mixed 
aniseed, licorice, or other spices with the 
dough, but the practice was not approved by 
all as tending to heat the blood 




An old pair of "Hots" 'muffs) for muffling the spurs cf Cock: 



After the sweating, the cock had a clay's 
rest; and then he was given Cheats": the 
trainer took the bird out upon some enclosed 
plot of grass, and showing him a common cock, 
carried in his arms, enticed the game-cock to 
give chase, now and again allowing him a 
stroke at the common bird. He was kept 
running up and down in this way for half an 
hour 

This routine, sparring, sweating and heating 
was continued for six weeks ; three days' rest 
being allowed before he was brought into the 
cock-pit 

It is a tribute to the soundness of this 
author's training- maxims that more than eighty 
years afterwards (in 1697) T r e g o n we 1 1 
Frampton transcribed them almost verbatim 
as the rules which from long experience he had 
found the best 

Frampton was master of the race horses and 
game-cocks to King William III and his 
successors 

In Markham's clay, cock-fighting had not 
reached the state of organisation to which it 

o 

attained later. Cocks were not matched bv 



26 

ascertained weight but by judgment. This 
authority says : 

"In your matching there is two things to 
be considered ; that is the length of cocks 
and the strength of cocks ; for if your 
adversary cock be too long, yours shall 
hardly catch his head and then he can neither 
endanger eye nor life ; and if he be the 
stronger, he will over-bear your cock and 
not suffer him to rise and strike with any 
advantage ; therefore for the knowledge of 
these two rules, though experience be the 
best tutor, yet the first, which is length, you 
shall judge by your eye when you grip the 
cock about the waist and make him shoot 
out his legs in which posture you shall see 
the utmost of his height, and so compare 
them in your judgement. . . . Now for his 
strength, which is known by the thickness of 
his body, for that cock is ever held the 
strongest which is largest in the girth, you 
shall know it by the measure of your hands 
gripping the cock " 

Artificial spurs had not at this time come 
into use. To prepare the cock for battle the 
beak and spurs were smoothed and sharpened 
with a knife ; the " mane " was clipped off 
close to the neck, from head to setting on of the 



shoulders ; the tail was clipped to the rump, and 
the wing feathers cut " slope wise with sharp 
points, that in his rising he may endanger the 
eye of his adversary ' 

It is impossible to read the old author's 
pages without being impressed by the minute- 
ness of his instructions to the cocker from the 
very first stage of the breeding part of the 
business to the last the treatment of wounded 
cocks. There is nothing like it in contemporary 
literature nor for generations afterwards ; clear 
proof of the importance of the place cock- 
fighting held in the daily life of our ancestors 
three hundred years ago 

No rules for the conduct of cock-fights had 
come into use when Markham wrote in 1614. 
This seems certain from the author's omission 
to mention rules 



PROHIBITION OF COCKING BY CROMWELL 

During the Commonwealth public cocking 
was made illegal, the Statute in this sense being 
passed in the year 1654 

The times were disturbed and the wording 
of the Act shows that it was not the sport to 



which the authorities objected, but to the 
political mischief which might be hatched 
under pretext of meetings for sport : 

" Whereas the public meetings and assem- 
blies of people together in divers parts of 
this nation, under pretence of matches for 
cock-fighting, are by experience found to 
tend many times to the disturbance of the 
public peace ... it is ordained . . . that 
from henceforth there shall be no public or 
set-meetings or assemblies of any persons 
within England or Wales upon matches 
made for cock-fighting " 

Horse racing, it may be observed, for the 
same reason was forbidden for a term of six 
months from 6th July in the same year. 
Similar edicts against the " disaffected " were 
issued in 1655 and 1659. The former states 
that it is at horse races, cock-fights and bear- 
baitings that "rebellion is usually hatched " 

Under an Act passed in 1656, persons who 
" by playing at cards, dice, tables, tennis, bowls, 
or shovelboard, cock-fighting or by horse 
races," or by betting thereon, won money 
were made liable to forfeit double the amount 
won 

The fact that betting on cock-fio-htinof was 

O O t"> 

made a punishable offence, shows that the sport 



29 

itself was not forbidden, as some authorities 
have maintained 



CHARLES II AS A COCKER 

Charles II (1660-1685) was an enthusiastic 
cocker ; the pile cocks, introduced by this 
monarch were "held in high estimation among 
numerous breeders at this day," says a writer * 
of admitted authority, in 1819 

Annual mains were instituted at the West- 
minster cock-pit in Charles II 's time, and these 
continued until the days of the Regency or 
later f. The earliest code of laws governing 
the sport are attributed to this period. The 
brief rules transcribed on p. 30 are assigned J to 
the rei^n of Charles II, but there are reasons 

O 

for believing that they are not authentic 

They do not mention the curious method of 
deciding a match known as "pounding" which 



* Article on Cock -fighting in Recs' Cyclopaedia, by 
Thomas Bourne, a famous Cornish cocker, known as 
"Tommy the Sweep'' 

t Ibid 

:i; These " Rules relating to the Matching and Fighting 
of Cocks in London " are given in Heber's Sporting 
Calendar for 1751 : prefaced with the statement that they 
"are said to have been in practice there ever since the 
reign of King Charles II ;; 



was in vogue in 1663, as shown in the passage 
in Samuel Pepys's Diary quoted on pages 36-7 ; 
and the directions for matching birds indicate 
actual weighment in scales, a practice which 
was certainly not universal in Charles II's time 

" The methods of fighting a main are : 

" To begin the same by fighting the lightest 
pair of cocks (which fall in March) first, pro- 
ceeding upwards, to the end ; that every 
lighter pair may fight earlier than those that 
are heavier 

"In matching (with relation to the battles) 
it is a rule always in London 

" That after the cocks of the main are 
weighed, and the Match Bills are compared 

4 ' That every pair of dead, or equal, weight 
are separated and fight against others, pro- 
vided that it appears that the main can be 
enlarged, by adding thereto either one battle 
or more, thereby " * 

As regards the period when matching cocks 
by careful weighing came into vogue, Dr. 
Robert Plott writing in 1686, the year after 
Charles II's death, describes, and gives a 
drawing of, an ingenious appliance for gauging 

* See Appendix C 



the length and girth of cocks which was 
invented by Sir Richard Astley of Patshull. 
The cock to be measured was secured by the 
body on a central movable pedestal, his head 
made fast to a fixed perch and his feet to 
another perch sliding in a frame, marked 
in eighths of an inch. Nothing is said by 
Dr. Plott of the introduction of weighing which 
would have rendered Sir Richard Astley's 
contrivance obsolete 

The last rule directing the separation of 
birds of " dead or equal weight" to prolong 
the main needs explanation. Cocks which 
weighed within one ounce of each other were 

o 

said to "fall in, " and if there were enough of 
such cocks of even weight shown, these fought 
the main battles among themselves, the lighter 
and heavier cocks being thrown into the byes. 
But if the cocks thus "falling in" were few, it 
was usual to separate and pit them against the 
lighter and heavier birds, so as to increase the 
number of battles and decrease the number of 
byes which did not count in scoring 

ROYAL COOKINGS AT NEWMARKET 

It was during his visits to Newmarket that 
Charles II appears most prominently as a 
cocker. On I3th April, 1676, Mr. Secretary 



32 

Coventry writes, dating his letter 9 p.m., to 
Mr. Secretary Williamson : " We have been 
almost all day, morning and afternoon, in the 
field, and his Majesty is at this time at the 
cock-pit by candle-light " 

The cockings at Newmarket were often 
advertised in the London Gazette. The follow- 
ing appeared in that journal of February 2Sth/ 
March ^th, 1678 : 

4 ' These are to give notice that there will 
be two great Matches of Cocking fought in 
His Majesty's Cock-pit at Newmarket, the 
one in Easter week next and the other in the 
week following ; and all gentlemen concerned 
therein are desired to send their cocks 
accordingly. The Grand Match will be in 
the week after Easter " 

Another announcement in the London Gazette 
of February 5th/Qth, 1679. throw r s light on the 
progress of the sport : 

"The Masters of His Majesty's Cock-pit 
do desire all gentlemen that love the game 
to send in their cocks to the pit at New- 
market in such seasonable time as they may 
be fit to fight, they intending to begin the 
said Cock match on the i5th day of March : 
and there shall be feeders ready to take 
care of their cocks " 



33 

This is the earliest mention of " feeders " or 
trainers of fighting cocks : the sport under 
royal patronage was assuming organisation 

The appeal to intending cockers to send 
their birds " in seasonable time, that they may 
be fit to fight " lends point to a maxim of 
cocking well understood in those days. Travel 
upset the fighting cock ; no matter how care- 
fully the birds might be conveyed, they required 
several days rest to recover from the effects of 
a journey; and this rest would have been 
particularly necessary at a time when wheeled 
vehicles were still of the rudest description and 
jolted over execrable roads 

If the cocks were carried on horse-back, 
their travelling plight in cock-bags would have 
been no better. Hence the notice early in 
February to send birds in good time for the 
matches to take place in the middle of March 

On 1 4th March, 1683, the Duke of York at 
Newmarket, writing to the Countess of Lich- 
field, says, the weather has been so bad "cock- 
fighting has been almost the only thing we 
could do here, and that for the most part we 
have twice a day " 

Sir John Reresby in his Memoirs, writing in 

D 



34 

March, 1684, describes a day in King Charles 
II's life at Newmarket : 

" Walking in the morning till 10 o'clock. 
Then he went to the cock-pit till dinner 
time ; about three he went to the horse- 
races ; at six to the cock-pit for an hour ; 
then to the play, though the comedians were 
very indifferent ; next to the Duchess of 
Portsmouth's till bed time, and then to his 
own apartments to bed " 

From Stuart times onward, racing and cock- 

o 

fighting went hand in hand until the law 
practically made an end of the latter. Race 
meetings afforded an opportunity for cock 
matches between individuals, towns and coun- 
ties ; and of these our ancestors took advantage 
until the early years of Queen Victoria's reign 

The first Racing Calendar (Cheney's, 1727) 
contains particulars of cock-matches fought at 
various meetings, and such are given in every 
ensuing volume down to that of 1840 

There was a Royal cock-pit at Windsor ; 
the London Gazette in 1684 advertises a " Great 
Match of Cock-fighting between Two Persons 
of Quality " to be held there, with the intima- 
tion that " it will last the whole week." There 
were also Royal pits at York and Dublin 



35 

Gaming was carried to excess after the 
Restoration, and the public cock-pits, like other 
places open to the world, were the haunts of 
bad characters ; hence the inclusion of cock pits 
in Charles II's law (16 Car. 11., c. 7) of 1664 
against "disorderly and excessive gaming." 
This was an endeavour to suppress cheating 
and " welshing " at cards, dice, tables, tennis, 
bowls, " kittles " (skittles), shovelboarcl, cocking, 
horse-racing, dog matches and foot-races 

Any person who " by unlawful devise or ill 
practice" should win money over these sports 
and games was to forfeit thrice the amount of 
his winnings 

O 



LONDON COCKING UNDER CHARLES II 

Samuel Pepys gives an occasional glimpse 
of the sport as he saw it in the public cock-pits 
of London. These being open to all by pay- 
ment it is not surprising that the crowd and its 
behaviour invited criticism. On 2 1 st December, 
1663, he writes : 

" Being directed by sight of bills upon the 
walls, I did go to Shoe Lane to see a cock 
fighting at a new pit there, a sport I was 



36 

never at in my life ; but Lord ! to see the 
strange variety of people from Parliament 
man ... to the poorest 'prentices, bakers, 
butchers, brewers draymen and what not ; 
and all these fellows one with another in 
swearing, cursing and betting " 

Pepys says he soon had enough of it, and 
yet he was o-Jad to have seen a main once 

J o 

"It being strange to observe the nature 
of these poor creatures, how they will fight 
till they drop down dead upon the table, 
and strike after they are ready to give up the 
ghost, not offering to run away when they 
are weary or wounded past doing further, 
whereas where a Dunghill brood (bred one) 
comes, he will, after a sharp stroke that pricks 
him, run off the stage, and then they wring off 
his neck without more ado, whereas the other 
they preserve, though the eyes be both out, 
for breed only of a true cock of the game 

"Sometimes a cock that has ten to one 
against him will by chance give an unlucky 
blow, will strike the other starke dead in a 
moment, that he never stirs more ; but the 
common rule is, that though a cock neither 
runs nor dies, yet if any man will bet ^"10 to 



o/ 

a crown and nobody take the bet, the game 
is given over and not sooner * 

" One thing more it is strange to see how 
people of this poor rank, that look as if they 
had not bread to put in their mouths, shall 
bet three or four pounds at one bet and lose 
it, and yet bet as much the next battle (so 
they call every match of two cocks), so that 
one of them will lose \o or 20 at a 
meeting " 

Pepys refers to the cock-pit in Shoe Lane as 

"new": it is probable that he uses the word 

in the sense of restored or re-opened after the 

Commonwealth, for a cock-pit existed in Shoe 

Lane during the time of James I. It was 

there that Sir Thomas Jermin, a famous cocker 

who died in 1644, played the knavish trick 

recorded.')- Meaning, says the chronicler to 

"make himself merry and gull all the 

cockers, he sent his man to the pit in Shoe 

Lane with an hundred pounds and a dunghill 

cock neatly cut and trimmed for the battle ; 

the plot being well laid, the fellow got another 



* This was called " pounding. " The spectator who 
offered the bet laid his hat or glove on the pit as a token 
of challenge ; if anyone took up the wager he also laid 
his hat or some other article on the pit ; and both 
" tokens" lay till the bet was decided 

f Harleian MSS. 6395, Temp. Jac. i 



33 

to throw the cock in, and fight him in Sir 
Thomas Jermin's name, while he betted his 
hundred pounds against him ; the cock was 
matched and, bearing Sir Thomas's name, 
had many bets laid upon his head ; but after 
three or four good brushes he showed a pair 
of heels : everyone wondered to see a cock 
belonging to Sir Thomas cry craven, and 
away came the man with his money doubled " 

Pepys's reference to " the common rule " 
that though a cock neither ran nor died, yet if 
any man w r ould bet i o to a crown and nobody 
took it, the game was given over, " clearly 
shows that "pounding" was a well-established 
cock law, early in Charles II 's reign, though it 
is not mentioned in the laws quoted on p. 30 

The Code in which this rule is included, is not 
to be found among contemporary publications ; 
it was published, as already stated, in Heber's 
Historical List of Horse Matches in 1751 

Pepys makes mention of three cock-pits 
besides that in Shoe Lane. There was one in 
Drury Lane, another in Aldersgate Street, and 
a third, which he calls " the New Cock-pit," 
by the King's Gate in Holborn. The White- 
hall cock-pit is referred to also, but only as the 
lodging of the Duke of Albemarle, with whom 



39 

the diarist's official duties brought him in 
frequent contact 

Pepys paid two visits to the New Cock-pit 
in Holborn. The first time he went he was 
deterred from going in by the rabble about the 
doors ; on the second occasion he came away 
after seeing two battles. Cock-fighting in his 
opinion was "no great sport," but he was 
again deeply impressed by the courage of the 
birds 

The diarist does not refer to the cock-pit in 
Jewin Street. This was one of the buildings 
which escaped destruction in the Great Fire of 
London, 1666, and for some years after, until 
the churches* were rebuilt, it served as the 
religious meeting-house of one Grimes and his 
followers 

Another cock-pit was that behind Gray's Inn ; 
this was put in order after the Restoration, 
having been apparently closed during the 
Commonwealth ; it continued in existence 
certainly for a hundred years. It is shown on 
Strype's map of London dated i 754 

PROVINCIAL COCKING 

Cock-fights were occasionally held in the 
church at this time. The parish register of 



* Eighty-eight churches, including St. Paul's, were 
destroyed in the Great Fire 



40 
Hemingf boron o-h, Yorks, contains this entry : 

o o ' ^ 

" February 2nd 1661. Upon fastene (fasting) 
day last, they came with their cocks in to the 
church and fought them in the church namely, 
Thos Middleton of Cliff, John Coats, Ed 
Nidhouse and John Batley " 

It must be remembered that few churches 
were furnished with pews at this period, and 
there was thus ample space for the business 

Cock-fighting was slow in reaching Scotland. 
It was introduced into that Country in the year 
1 68 1, by the Duke of York, and speedily 
found favour. Two years later, in 1683, a 
cock-pit was built at Leith, and the matches 
fought evidently attracted larger audiences than 
the Edinburgh authorities, anxious lor the 
moral and worldly welfare of the citizens, could 
approve 

In 1/04, an attempt was made by the Town 
Council to close the Leith cock-pit as an 
" impediment to business " ; and in the event, 
one day's sport a year w T as sanctioned 

It is hardly necessary to describe the cock- 
pit and its surroundings : the pit itself was a 
circular table or mound of earth about the 
height of an ordinary dinner table, about 20 
feet in diameter, covered with matting and 
having a board barrier eight or ten inches high 



enclosing it. The audience crowded round the 
pit and occupied rising tiers of seats 

Matches out of doors were always fought on 
the grass, and when they took place in a room 
in the country, where such preparation was 
feasible the floor was spread with sods of turf. 
This not being practicable in London and 
large towns whose pits were in constant use, 
matting, at a later elate carpet, was used in place 
of turf; nevertheless, so closely was the grass- 
covered pit associated with the sport, that " the 
sod '' bore to cocking the same significance as 
" the turf ' bears to racing in our clays 

COCKING IN JAMES II 's REIGN 

Cock-fighting continued to flourish during 
the brief reign of James II (1685-88), though 
that monarch does not appear to have taken 
interest in the sport 

The following letter, written in April, 1687, 
by Bridget Noel to her sister the Countess of 
Rutland, shows the interest taken by ladies in 
the sport at this period : 

" I am extremely sorry it is not possible 
for us to wait on my dear sister sooner than 
the 28th and 2Oth of May, for there is a 
cocking and horse matches which we have 



promised to be at. My Lord Toumand 
(Thomond) will be at the great cocking, and 
(Lord) Barney and Lord Grandson and a 
great many more Lords that I do not 
know their names. It is said here it will 
be as great a match has ever as been. 
Barney intends to back our cocks with 
some thousands for he is of our side " * 

Men of good social standing made matches 
which were fought in public, but as a rule the 
names of the principals were not published. 
The London Gazette of 22nd May, 1690, 
notifies ''a great match of cock-fighting 2 gs. 
and 50 gs., between Two Persons of Honour at 
the cock-pit, Clerkenwell Close " 

COCKING IN WILLIAM Ill's REIGN 

Mons. Misson, a French gentleman who 
paid a visit to this country about 1690 or 1691, 
and wrote an account of all he saw, says : 

li Cock-fighting is one of the great English 
diversions : they builcl Amphitheatres for 
this purpose and Persons of Quality some- 
times appear at them. Great wagers are 



* MSS. of the Duke of Rutland at Belvoiv Castle. Hist- 
MSS. Comm. 



43 

laid ; but I am tolcl that a man may be 
damnably bubbled if he is not very sharp " * 

William III (1694-1702) was an ardent 
cocker. He spent much time at Newmarket, 
and on wet days the cock-pit was " enclosed 
by stars and blue ribands " ; which suggests that 
cocking in the presence of royalty was a function 
attended by the Court and distinguished visitors 
in full dress 

It is at this period that the term " Battle 
Royal " is first employed. It was used to 
describe the fight when a number of cocks 
turned into the pit together. The Postman of 
20/22 April, 1699, thus chronicles such a 
battle : 

" On 1 8th April, His Majesty hunted and 
in the afternoon went to the cock-pit where 
a Battle Royal of 9 cocks together at once 
upon the pit was fought : most of them were 
killed and two brothers carried the victory 
after fighting as long as both could stand by 
the other " 

The celebrated Tregonwell Frampton, 
Master of the King's Race Horses and Game- 
cocks, became a prominent figure about this 
time. In April, 1698, a match was arranged 

* Misson's Memoir. Ozell's Translation 



44 

between Lord Rcss and Mr. Frampton, 25 
cocks a side at 5 guineas the match and ^500 
the odd. The King was present at the first 
day's sport, w r hich comprised six battles ; the 
main was continued daily until the whole 
twenty-five matches had been fought out. 
Mr. Frampton's cocks won sixteen out of the 
twenty-five 

VARIOUS KINDS OF MAINS 

A ;< long main " lasted four days or more ; a 
'' short main " consisted of two or three days' 
cocking. A " Welsh main " was fought out 
in the same way as a modern coursing match ; 
eight or sixteen cocks, all about the same 
weight, viz., about 4 Ibs. 4 ozs., were entered 
and drawn to fight in pairs ; and the winners 
in each match were paired until the two 
surviving winners met in the final. The 
Welsh main at a later period was most popular 
in the North of England 

The ' Devonshire main " seems to have 
been peculiar to Devon and Cornwall. In this 
the matches were fought by "set weight." A 
pair of birds each of 4 Ibs. were matched, then 
a pair of 4 Ibs. i oz., then a pair of 4 Ibs. 2 ozs , 
and so on, each pair weighing announce each 
more than the last till the maximum of 



45 

5 Ibs. 3 ozs. was reached. The Devonshire 
main was, in effect, a refinement of the orthodox 
system 

The Battle Royal and the Welsh main were 
the features of cocking to which its opponents 
most strenuously objected : they were peculiar 
to English cocking 

The usual system was to make a main consist 
of an uneven number of battles 9, 15, 21 or 
25, in order that one competitor might win a 
majority 

COCKING AND RACING 

The great majority of cockers " fed," i.e., 
trained their own birds : wealthy men employed 
their own feeders ; but there were also feeders 
who made it their business to train the cocks 
of patrons for payment, as race-horse trainers 
do now. The Duke of Rutland's accounts for 
June, 1695, include this item: 4i To the cock 
feeder at Leicester, for feeding 3 cocks, 7/6 " 

Ic is interesting to notice the relative im- 
portance of racing and cocking in William Ill's 
time. In March, 1699, racing and cock-fighting 
were advertised to take place at S waff ham in 
Norfolk. The racing consisted of one event, 
a plate of 30 guineas ; the cocking lasted three 
days. In regard to this it must be remembered 



4 6 

that a single race run in heats, as the practice 
then was, would provide sport for the better 
part of a March afternoon ; but the devotion 
of three days to cocking clearly indicates the 
general popularity of the sport. Men whose 
means fell far short of indulgence in racing 
took active part in cocking 

FIRST RECORD OF ARTIFICIAL SPURS 

It is impossible to discover the exact date 
when artificial spurs first came into use. It 
may be taken for granted that they were 
unknown in Charles H's time, or Pepys would 
not have failed to remark upon them. They 
had come into vogue a few years afterwards, 
and were used in William Ill's reign, as 
appears from an entry in the personal accounts 
of the then Duke of Rutland; "6th April, 
1698, paid Mr. Sherburne for 6 pairs of cocks 
spurs at Newmarket, ^3 " * 

In the year 1703, a Quaker named Kingston 
published at Exeter a book or pamphlet in 
which he vehemently condemned cock-fighting 
as brutal, and at the time he wrote had become 
in his judgment yet more barbarous by reason 
of the use of " metal spurs " 



* MSS. of the Duke of Rutland at Belvoir Castle. Hist. 
MSS. Comm 



47 
TRAINING IN QUEEN ANNE'S TIME 

Cocking Hourished during Queen Anne's 
reign (1702-1714) and some curious variations 
were introduced at some resorts. Before 
noticing these it is necessary to draw attention 
to the changes which had grown up in the 
system of preparing birds for the pit, as shown 
in a book * published at this time. The writer 
of this work did not put his name to it 

The prolonged training- of six weeks with 
the severe sweatings or "stovings" recom- 
mended by Gervaise Markham had been given 
up ; a fortnight's " dieting " was held enough 
for a small cock, and three weeks or more for 
a large one ; a mild sweating of 3 or 4 hours 
once or twice a quarter was recommended in 
place of the prolonged ordeal which lasted from 
early morning till four in the afternoon 

The comb was no longer cut close to the 
skull as in former days, but "smoothly cut into 
the shape of a half moon," so that it served 
both for mjard and ornament. No doubt there 

o 

was much to be said in favour of the change, 
which left the cock's head some slight protec- 
tion from the beak of its foe, but fashion or 
regard for appearances also seems to have had 

* The Royal Pastime of Cock-fighting. By R. H., 
A Lover of the Sport. (1/09) 



4 8 

something to do with it, as The Royal Pastime 
of Cocking says " close cutting makes them 
appear sneaking." Close cutting was also 
objected to on the ground that it weakened 
the bird's beak. It may be doubted whether 
it produced this effect 

The greater exactness which had been 
arrived at in breeding is shown by the impor- 
tance this authority attaches to " close heeling " 
or "sure pointing," in other words, to accurate 
striking. There were " many ways to help a 
cock and make him point well," but the 
cocker's great object was to breed from a strain 
of "sure heelers," avoiding birds that were 
"dull heeled, wide, or short stricken." Hence 
the scrupulous care bestowed upon the feet : 
perches wrapped round with straw ropes to 
give safe and comfortable foothold were used 
with the object of keeping them in good order. 

As for the natural spurs to which paramount 
importance attached in previous days, these 
naturally became of no moment now artificial 
weapons had come into general use. They 
were cut short, the " heel " if used at all, 
serving as a foundation on which to place the 
metal spur 

The spur was not by any means always put 
on exactly where the natural " heel " grew ; on 



49 

the contrary ; an important part of the trainer's 
duty was to closely observe his birds while 
sparring and decide the exact place where the 
weapon could be fixed with greatest advantage. 
" There can be no certain rule about heeling. 
Some cocks want heels very high, others very 
low." It depended on the individual bird's 
method of striking 

The author of The Royal Pastime of Cocking 
had no preferences in the matter of colour, 
by which we may safely understand that he 
was not a believer in any particular strain or 
breed: ''That is the best which you fancy 
most, be it black or white, red or dun, grey 
or piled or any other colour whatever " ; 
but it is probable that contemporary cock 
masters would not have agreed with him on 
this head 

If this authority had no prejudice in favour of 
one strain or another, he held strong views con- 
cerning the size of cocks. He had no opinion of 
the large cock that weighed 9 or 10 Ibs. or more, 
and was from 36 to 40 inches long. Such a 
bird was not, in his judgment, fit to encounter 
the smaller cock ; with a 6 Ib. or 8 Ib. bird the 
cocker might fight the largest, the odds being- 
two to one on the little one, which " not only 
lies under and secure from blows which pass 

E 



50 

over, but has the advantage of under holds, 
and, having strength to strike home and close, 
seldom fails to win " 

Equally, he disapproves of very small cocks ; 
holding it almost impossible for a 3-lb. cock to 
beat one of 5 Ibs. ; the larger bird |' takes him 
in the rising and commonly nicks him at the 
first coming in " 

Apropos of the relative merits of large or 
small cocks the author of The Royal Pastime 
of Cocking says: ''It is all the mode of late 
to weigh them." He did not approve of the 
practice, because the scales paired together 
cocks of widely different shape ; a small bird 
might be matched against a tall and thin one, 
which did not make for a good fight ; and he 
thought the old method of measuring birds by 
hand and eye the better one of the two, pro- 
vided the man who handled the cocks was 
skilled in his business 

This authority insists upon the necessity for 
making cocks gentle and fearless in the hand : 
a bird that has been handled by a clumsy feeder 
or a rough one never appears to advantage ; 
he is likely "to skut [scoot] and basely quit 
the pit, and that more for fear of being handled 
by the feeder." Any roughness in handling- 
was condemned as making the birds wild and 



5 1 

shy, a serious defect in the fighting cock 
however courageous in actual battle 

Opinions at this period differed concerning 
the amount of sparring a young bird should be 
allowed to do while training. Most cock 
masters of this period considered frequent 
sparring hurtful 



" SHAKE-BAGS " 

Only the very large "the giant or Her- 
culean "cock was called a "shake-bag" in 
Queen Anne's time. According to Dr. Wilde, 
a famous cocker of the age, the name originated 
in Scotland, being used to describe the cocks 
preferred by Dutchmen 

The Dutch preference for large birds was 
due to the fact that they could be fought with- 
out weighing or matching at any inn or drinking 
resort ; the Dutchman's habit was to " steep his 
brains in brandy" till he was past judging 
of a cock's size, and past handling him. These 
cockers neither saw the cock they were to fight 
with beforehand, nor laid a hand upon their 
own after he was brought into the pit, " but 
take the bag by the bottom and shake the 



52 

cock out upon the pit and so let him go at 
his adversary " 

The cocker of the poorer classes preferred 
the shake-bag ; the owners of inns and ale- 
houses gave prizes, and their patrons favoured 
a large bird, which they thought would fight 
anything. Such cockers were urged to choose 
birds that weighed from 6 to 8 Ibs. when 
brought up from walk ; their fighting weight 
would be less after training 

At a later date the term "Shake-bag'' 
acquired more definite meaning, being applied 
to cocks which exceeded 4 Ibs. 8 ozs. in weight; 
such birds also known as " Turn-outs " 
were seldom matched by weight. The term 
" Turn-out " recalls that used in Gervaise 
Markham's day "Turn-poke " 

The author of The Royal Pastime of 
Cocking much preferred the fighting methods 
of the small cock to those of the large : the 
latter he says, " Like elephants, when down find 
it difficult to rise. They seldom strike but 
when their hold is strong, and then with their 
broad lances they dig such orifices in each 
others bulky sides," they are soon exhausted 
from loss of blood. The lancet-shaped spur 
was used for arming these large cocks 



53 
LONDON COCKING IN ANNE'S REIGN 

Various kinds of spurs were used in Queen 
Anne's time, as the following advertisement 
shows : 

"On Wednesday a single battle will- be 
fought with sickles after the East India 
manner, and on Thursday a Battle Royal, 
one cock with a sickle and four cocks with 
fair spurs. Friday a pair of shake-bags with 
fair spurs, and four matchable cocks which 
are to tight with sickles, lancet-spurs and 
penknife-spurs, the like never yet seen, for 
the entertainment of Foreign Ambassadors 
and gentlemen " 

Cocking always had its opponents, and in 
Queen Anne's reign there was agitation to 
make an end of it. This we learn from a 
remark in the preface to The Royal Pastime 
of Cocking. The author " would fain know, 
shall an innocent pastime be forbidden to all 
because some particular persons make ill use 
of it " 

The sport had far too strong a hold on all 
classes to be in any danger of abolition ; men of 
every class, from one extremity of the social 
scale to the other, bore part in it. The prize 

* Social Life in the Reign of Queen Anne. J. Ashton 



54 

for a match varied from a fat pig at the 
public-house pit to a thousand guineas at a 
fashionable resort 

Foreign visitors took a keen interest in 
English cocking, and purchased game - fowl 
from us then as they buy horses now. King 
Christian V of Denmark was a great lover of the 
sport ; he not only held cock-fights at appointed 
times but " always hung out costly ensigns and 
rich flags whereon is portrayed both the place 
(of cocking) and very gestures of the cock " 

This King had music to play " martial airs " 
when the cocks were brought upon the pit ; and 
the birds and the weapons which were to be 
fastened upon their heels were displayed to the 
spectators before the cocks were set to. Sir 
William Corby, Resident at the Danish Court, 
testified to the esteem in which English game- 
fowl were held in Denmark 

It was an age of gaming and high play, and 
large stakes were sometimes put up on cocking 
matches. The largest stake advertised during 
Queen Anne's reign was 10 guineas the battle 
and 500 guineas the odd. This was a main 
fought at the " Old Red Lyon Cock-pit,'* 
behind Gray's Inn Walks, between the Gentle- 
men of Essex against the rest of Great Britain 
it lasted a week 



55 

The Red Lion Cock-pit to adopt modern 
spelling was a fashionable resort during 
Queen Anne's reign. In March and April, 1704, 
the Gentlemen of Essex and Cambridgeshire 
matched their cocks against those of London 
and Surrey: 10 guineas a battle and 200 
guineas the odd 

This pit was burned down in 1708 under 
circumstances which go to show 7 the care good 
feeders took of their birds. There had been 
cocking on a Saturday and, the weather being- 
cold, two feeders named Compton and Day 
remained all night with their cocks to make sure 
they were warm. A candle accidentally falling* 
among the straw the building caught fire and 
one of the men was burned to death 

Where wagering ran high, as round the cock- 
pits, there were always blacklegs and welchers 
bent on defrauding their neighbours if oppor- 
tunity served. The cockers' law for dealing 
with such men was peculiar. In every cock- 
pit was a large basket to which was fastened a 
rope passed through a pulley in the roof. The 
welcher was put into the basket, drawn up and 
kept there until the sport was over, when he 
was lowered and, we need not doubt, received 
very rough handling. ll Basketing," as this 
was called, continued until the early years of 



56 

the nineteenth century. It had nearly gone 
out of use in 1803*, cockers contenting them- 
selves with turning the offender out-of-cloors 
with cuffs and kicks. Hogarth's well-known 
picture the scene of which is the Westminster 
Cock-pit shows the basket in use 

The full text of this rule will be found in 
Appendix A 

COCKING IN THE GEORGIAN DAYS 

The last year of George I's reign saw 
publication of the first regular annual record 
of cocking in Britain, at least in so far as 
important matches are concerned. John Cheney 
produced his Historical List of all Horse 
Matches Run in 1726, and included, as an 
appropriate adjunct to Turf records "a List of 
the Cock Matches of the Year " f 

These records throw a certain amount of 
light on the methods of the time. Ardent 
cockers might agree to meet and pit their cocks 
annually for a number of years. Thus, at 
WesLon in Cheshire (always a great cocking 
county), in 1727, Mr. S teat ham fought 

* Sporting Dictionary. Wm. Taplin. (1803) 

f The term " main " has been used in the foregoing 
pages as a matter of convenience ; this word, however, 
did not come into use until about 1727. " Cock match ' 
was the term till then applied to a battle or series of 
battles; from 1727, "main" was increasingly used 



57 

Mr. Poole, each "showing" 21 cocks for 
6 guineas a battle, and 20 guineas the odd ; 
won by Mr. Steatham ten battles to six. These 
two gentlemen at the same time (first week in 
April, 1727) fought seven pairs of shake-bags 
for 10 guineas the battle and 20 guineas the 
odd ; won by Mr. Poole four battles to three 

Messrs. Steatham and Poole fought a return 
match at Leek in Staffordshire, in May, 
21 cocks a side, for 6 guineas and 20 guineas ; 
won by Mr. Poole nine battles to five. 
Seven pairs of shake-bags were also pitted, 
Mr. Steatham winning four to three. They 
further agreed to fight each other once at 
Weston and once at Leeke every year for the 
next seven years, "every time showing 21 
match or battle cocks, and to fight seven 
pairs of shake-bags, and for the same sum " 

Messrs. Gumzere and Fridenberg arranged 
to fio-ht a series of mains twice a year for five 

o J 

years, each to show 41 cocks, 6 guineas 
a battle and 100 guineas the main. The record 
of these ten matches is not complete ; the last 
two were fought in 1750 at the Old Red Lion 
pit at the back of Gray's Inn 

Matches between counties were an institution; 
Cheshire fought Lancashire, 31 cocks a side 
for 5 guineas and 50 guineas ; frequently 



a town would fight a county, as when Hamp- 
shire fought Reading, 41 cocks a side, for 
4 guineas and 40 guineas 

Sometimes a single cocker fought a town or 
a whole county, as when Sir Jonathan Jenkins 
fought Derbyshire in July, 1727, showing 21 
cocks a side, for 2 guineas a battle and 
20 guineas the odd. Derbyshire was totally 
outmatched on this occasion, Sir Jonathan 
winning thirteen or fourteen of the battles 
and the county only two or three 

The difference between the number of cocks 
" shown " on either side and the number of 
battles fought will be remarked ; in the main 
last mentioned sixteen battles were fought and 
five byes ; the method of separating birds to 
fight battles and byes respectively was explained 
on page 3 1 

Cheney's account of the three matches fought 
in Cumberland (another great cocking county), 
shows the advantage enjoyed by the cocker 
who fought his birds at home ; in other words, 
to the upsetting effects of travel on the cocks. 
One of the three matches was fought at 
Whitehaven by the gentlemen of that town 
against Carlisle and Penrith ; the second at 
Penrith against Carlisle and Whitehaven ; and 
the third at Carlisle against Whitehaven and 



59 

Penrith ; each match consisting of 26 cocks 
a side for 2 guineas and 20 guineas 

In each of these three matches the home birds 
won : the Whitehaven cocks won at White- 
haven, the Penrith cocks at Penrith, and the 
Carlisle cocks at Carlisle, despite the fact that 
in each case the home birds had to meet the 
pick of the two other towns, " which seems, 
says the record, " to support the opinion of 
cocks receiving great damage by being far 
carried " 

The stakes in such matches were not extra- 
vagantly high. The largest mentioned in the 
list of matches fought in 1727 were in the 
main fought between Preston and WakefielcL 
Thirty-one cocks were shown : 10 guineas a 
battle and 180 guineas the odd. Twenty 
battles were fought, of which one was drawn, 
and the pecuniary result was as follows : 
Preston, 12 battles won at 10 guineas = 
i 20 guineas, plus 180 guineas = 300 guineas ; 
Wakefield, 7 battles won at 10 guineas = 
70 guineas. Net result, Preston won 300 
guineas less 70 guineas = 230 guineas. The 
wagering would have been out of all proportion 
to the stakes 

The rage for cocking gave use to many 
satires, lampoons and caricatures. A once 



62 



"The stage on which they fight is round 
and small. One of the cocks is released and 
struts about proudly for a few seconds. He 
is then caught up and his enemy appears. 
When the bets are made one of the cocks is 
placed on either end of the stage ; they are 
armed w r ith silver spurs, and immediately 
rush at each other and fight furiously. It 
is surprising to see the ardour, strength and 
courage of these little creatures, for they 
rarely give up till one of them is dead 

" The spectators are ordinarily composed 
of common people, and the noise is terrible ; 
it is impossible to hear yourself speak unless 
you shout. At Whitehall cock-pit, on the 
contrary, where the spectators are mostly 
persons of a certain rank, the noise is much 
less ; but would you believe that at this 
place several hundred pounds are sometimes 
lost and won ? 

" Cocks will sometimes fight a whole hour 
before one or the other is victorious ; at 
other times one may get killed at once. 
You sometimes see a cock ready to fall and 
apparently die, seeming to have no more 
strength, and suddenly it will regain all its 
vigour, fight with renewed courage, and kill 
its enemy 

" Sometimes a cock will be seen vanquish- 
ing its opponent and, thinking it is dead (if 



63 

cocks can think), jump on the body of the 
bird and crow noisily with triumph, when 
the fallen bird will unexpectedly revive and 
slay the victor. Of course such cases are 
very rare, but their possibility makes the 
fight very exciting. Ladies never assist at 
these sports " 

Mons. de Saussure was referring to the 
Royal Cock-pit when he wrote of silver spurs : 
these, being less fatal than spurs of steel, were 
always used at the St. James's resort, when the 
stake on the battle was ^5 or more, unless 
special conditions were made to the contrary ; 
the object being to prolong the fight 

Daniel Defoe, writing four years earlier,* 
says he attended several cock matches and 
never saw a cock run away. He did not care 
about cocking, regarding it as a " remnant 
of the barbarous customs of this island, and 
too cruel " to please him, by reason of the use 
of steel spurs, which he says were called 
"gaffles" 

There are in the Elsenham collection a set 
of six pairs of silver spurs in a sharkskin 
case ; such a set of uniform pattern by the 
same maker is very rare. The initials of the 
maker, stamped on the blade sockets, are 



5 Jouvney through England. (1724) 



6 4 

" P.C.," indicating a member of the Clay family 
the members of which were famed for the 
beauty, quality and finish of the cock spurs 
made by them. These spurs, of which an 
illustration is given, were made in 1755 

The leathers for attaching the spurs to the 
legs of the cock are stamped " N.P. " ; these 
were the initials of Nehemiah Paucson, one of 
the busiest patrons of the cock-pit at that 
period : he fought a number of great mains 
with other famous cockers of the day 

The leathers are in bad repair, but the spurs 
remain as they were taken from the heels of 
the cocks which last fought in them 

Defoe, like others who have recorded their 
impressions of cocking, refers to the con- 
tinuous uproar round the pit. One writer of 
this or a rather later period says it was worth 
coming to England if only to be present at an 
election and a cock match ; at each of which is 
displayed a " spirit of anarchy and confusion 
which words cannot paint " 

GAME-FOWL BREEDING IN GEORGIAN TIMES 

Ideas on the subject of game-fowl breeding 
were changing in George 1 1 's time. The old 
theory, upheld by Gervaise Markham, that 



given a true game- hen she would produce 
good fowl to any barn-yard cock was still held 
by many, and more advanced cock masters 
were now endeavouring to correct it 

In the year 1/44, Thomas Dixon, of York, 
an authority at once practical and thoughtful, 
produced a book,* in which he sought explana- 
tion of the deeply-rooted conviction that every- 
thing depended on the hen, and gave his own 
sensible views on the subject. 

Cocks, he points out, were continually in 
training, were "harassed about" by journeys, 
which, together with the wounds received in 
battle, impaired their constitutions and brought 
upon them the premature old age which affects 
vigour and reproductive power. Hens, on the 
other hand, were not subject to these influences 
and, living quietly at home, retained their con- 
stitution and breeding powers unimpaired. In 
a word, that hens led a natural life, whereas 
cocks did not 

Moreover, Dixon thought the clipping of a 
cock for battle disturbed the natural course of 
moulting. " All breeders must allow that during 
the time of a cock's being out of feather he is 
liable to a great many casualties and misfortunes 



* A Treatie on the Nature and tvue Foundation of Breed- 
ing Cocks. (York, 1744) 

F 



66 

which render him incapable of shedding his 
feathers after a regular manner and at a proper 
time of the year, which if he does not it is 
impossible he should be healthful" 

Dixon also strongly condemned the practice 
of breeding from "tainted fowl." There were 
many degrees of taint : in some cases it arose 
from the use of old and battle-worn cocks ; in 
others from walking at places where the young 
birds were exposed to extremes of heat and 
cold or want of water ; in others from in- 
judicious usage when the birds came in from 
walk and were taken up to train 

Long weapons were in vogue at this time, 
and their use indicated necessity for cocks with 
short thighs ; a long thigh was weak and the 
bird was liable to break his own limbs by 
strong striking. Activity and strength were 
the great points at which to aim in the con- 
formation of game-fowl. Dixon divided fight- 
ing cocks into three classes : 

( i ) The active and ready -fight ing cock, which 
if in perfect condition was the best, but if not in 
such condition the worst. This kind of cock- 
always attacked at once and in such a furious 
manner that the designs of the foe were 

o 

frustrated 



Mr. George Heneage's " Dog -kennels, more 
particularly the Right Norrils, which were bred 
from the Old Nonpariel Dog-kennel cock and 
out of Sir Windsor Hemlock's hens/ 7 are cited 
as the best examples of this kind of fighting 
cock. Mr. Heneage, a Lincolnshire gentle- 
man, was one of the foremost cockers of his 
day, and on occasion he fought his birds for 
large stakes. In 1744 he made a match with 
the Duke of Ancaster, to be fought at Louth 
in May, 1745 : 41 cocks a side, 20 guineas the 
battle and 1,400 guineas the main 

(2) The Bull-dog kind, which was never in 
a hurry, was seldom known to spar, but kept 
its ground and stood it fairly, blow for blow, 
always placing a stroke w r here it was sure to do 
execution 

Mr. Boston's Duckwings are cited as the best 
of the Bull-dog kind. They traced their descent 
from the Old Duckwing, bred by Smith, of 
Peterborough, admitted to be as fine a bird as 
any ever bred in England 

Old Duckwing fought four years in succession 
at the Lincoln race meeting and at other places 
besides ; and in his eighth year, being then 
almost blind and gouty-footed, he beat a fine 
fresh cock in a few blows. This bird was 
remarkable for his great strength ; he never 



68 

fought without either breaking or bending 
Smith's spurs almost double. Such power, it 
might be thought, would be rather against the 
bird, since spurs might not be changed during 
a match. 

The (3) and last kind was the Artful fighting 
cock : this sort always were on their guard 
from the moment they were pitted ; they took 
the measure of the adversary, and if they found 
him "too long or too strong" for them, never 
allowed him a fair blow at the face ; shooting 
off clear of danger after putting in a stroke. 
Such a cock had great staying power and would 
beat a bird much heavier and stronger than 
himself 

The " Plimouths " of Wilkins of Grantham 
are mentioned as the best examples of the 
Artful cock, whose presence of mind was their 
strong point 

Dixon is the first authority to advocate 
incestuous breeding of game-fowl ; he says, 
brother and sister may be mated, but he thought 
it preferable to breed from half-brother and 
sister, " that is twice by the cock but from 
different hens," provided a year's trial of each 
has produced good results ; or own cousins 
could be mated with advantage 

Dixon mentions a successful cross made by 
Mr. Boston of Lincoln, between his Duckwings 



6 9 

and Downrumps ; the crossing- produced 
excellent fighting cocks, but these bred very 
indifferent stock, slothful and inactive. He 
attributes this and another failure to the mating 

o 

of an Active fighter with a hen of the Bull-dog 
or the Artful class ; and uses the lesson to 
insist upon the policy of incestuous breeding 

THE COCK FEEDER 

A great deal depended on the feeder from 
the hour the young birds were taken up for 
training until they were heeled for battle 

The methods of the pit afforded scope for the 
feeder's skill. The usual system was to show 
and weigh cocks the day but one before the 
main began. Each bird was weighed to a 
quarter of an ounce, and as it was to the cocker's 
interest that his birds should weigh as light as 
possible, the feeder brought his cocks hungry 
to the scales. He could not risk weakening 

o 

them by drawing the birds too fine to be 
weighed, and he dared not over-feed them after 
they had passed the scales, lest he made them 
unfit for battle forty-eight hours or more 
afterwards 

The art of the feeder was shown in the skill 
with which he could get his birds weighed at 



70 

their lightest, and yet pit them "wound up" to 
the very pitch of fighting condition 

Feeders varied in their attainments : some 
excelled in training for a short main of two or 
three days ; others were at their best in training 
birds for a long main of six days 

The feeder, in point of fact, occupied on the 
sod the same position as the modern race-horse 
trainer; Heber's Calendar of 1751 contains, 
with particulars of cock- matches fought and 
arranged, the names of the feeders in some 
cases, thus indicating recognition of the impor- 
tance of their part in cock-fighting 

When county fought county all the birds 
destined for the match were placed in the care 
of the county feeder. Thus in 1/50, matches 
were arranged between Gloucestershire and 
Wiltshire, the first to be fought at Cirencester in 
Easter week, the return match at " Cricklet " 
(Cricklade) in Whitsun week : 4: cocks a side, 
10 guineas the battle and 200 the main ; the 
feeder for Wiltshire was Mr. Cope and for 
Gloucestershire, Mr. Wagstaff 

MAINS BETWEEN COUNTIES AND TOWNS 

Neither George I nor George II took any 
personal interest in the cock-pit, but lack of 
royal example in no way affected the general 



,. 



.-_ 

1 

'" 




popularity of cocking. The newspapers of the 
time bear witness to the number of matches in 
the lame towns of the kingdom. These 

O O 

appealed to every class, and were held in very 
various places 

Thus on 6th May, i 744, the Daily Advertiser 
announces cocking at the Two Brewers, 
Hockley in the Hole (Clerkenwell), for "a 
large sow and ten pigs " or their value, no cock 
to exceed 4 Ibs. i oz. In 1747 Ariss Gazette 
notifies a match, 41 cocks a side between 
Warwickshire and Worcestershire, at Ducldes- 
ton Hall, near Birmingham, 10 guineas a battle 
and 200 guineas the main ; also 2 i cocks a side 
to fight byes for 2 guineas each 

In these inter-county or inter-town mains 
the birds were generally the property of a 
number of joint subscribers, but leading cockers 
sometimes lent birds to do battle 

The Earl of Derby used to lend birds to fight 
for Lancashire against Cheshire. The cocks 
were chosen of medium weight, 3 Ibs. 8 ozs. to 
4 Ibs. 10 ozs., in order to ensure as many battles 
and as few byes as possible; and the combatants 
were often matched to a drachm weight. At 
the second of a series of seven annual matches 
fought by Birmingham against Briclgenorth 
(1761) of sixty-one cocks weighed, fifty-eight 
were matched 



72 

With a few exceptions 200 guineas was the 
largest stake on a main ; occasionally it might 
be 400 guineas, but by far the greater amount 
of money changed hands in bets 

In the town cocking was essentially an 
evening amusement, that it might be acces- 
sible to those w r ho were occupied during the 
day ; but at pits patronised by men of leisure 
and on holidays at public resorts "play" might 
begin at eleven or at noon. Nominally the 
cocking season opened with Shrovetide and 
coincided with the racing season ; in practice 
cocking went on all the year round 

RULES OF COCK-FIGHTING 

The " Rules and Orders for Cocking," ob- 
served at this period (1751), are given in 
Appendix A. The matter-of-fact way in which 
is set forth the method of '* setting to " cocks, 
one or both of which might have lost its sight, 
is eloquent of the callous spirit of the age. So 
long as a cock would fight and a true game- 
cock would fight to the last gasp the injuries 
it received were merely regarded as impairing 
prospects of winning, It is not surprising that 
cocking had its resolute opponents among the 
more enlightened of our ancestors 



73 



Perhaps, however, the point that first strikes 
the reader of these nineteen rules is only six 
of them apply to cock-fighting itself. Three 
(Nos. VIII, XV and XVII) apply to the 
conduct and control of the audience, while the 
remaining ten rules deal with betting and the 
quarrels that might arise out of it. This 
circumstance lends colour to the frequent com- 
plaints made by the opponents of cocking to 
the effect that it gave rise to dispute and riot 

COCK-FIGHTING AND DISORDER 

There is ample evidence to prove that in 
districts where cock-fighting was particularly 
popular, as in the " Black Country, 1 ' serious 
troubles occurred. At Wednesbury, in Staf- 
fordshire, always a great place for the sport, 
the authorities in 1750 gave public notice that 
"on account of the many disorders and furious 
riots " which took place in the alehouses after 
cock-fighting, any publican who allowed the 
sport on his premises should lose his licence, 
and that all cockers caup'ht stirrino- up mischief 

O O I 

or inciting to riot should be whipped at the 
common whipping-post 

Six years later the Darlaston authorities 
issued warning that "felonies and disorders'" 



74 
at cock-ficrhts or similar assemblies would be 

o 

prosecuted. Darlaston was another famous 
cocking- centre. Mr. Hackwood states that 
when the town wished to bring about a cocking 
match with the neighbouring town of Willen- 
hall, or vice versa, a man would go out carrying 
a game-cock which he held up towards the 
weathercock on the church steeple of the 
other town ; this gesture meant a challenge, 
and it was never refused 

COCKING IN THE MIDLANDS 

The Birmingham capers in George II's time 
gave as much space to the description of a 
cock match as to the trials at Assizes, to royal 
birthday celebrations and other events of public 
interest. Advertisements remain to show the 
frequency of meetings at Briclgnorth, Stoke, 
Worcester, Wellington, Dudley, Lichfield, in a 
word ot all the towns within a clay's journey 
of Birmingham : the Weclnesbury cockings 
were famed, and the Preston race meetings 
for a long period were noted for the mains 
that were fought there 

Duddeston Hall was to the Midlands what 
the London cock-pits were to the South. 
County mains were fought there for many 
years ; and there was an annual subscription 



/D 
main on New Year's day and the day following 

GEORGE III. AND COCKING 

William Hogarth's picture " The Cock-pit " 
(facing page 50) painted in 1759, is the best 
known work of the kind. The scene is the 
Royal Cock-pit, as appears from the Royal Arms 
on the wall, and the principal figure is Lord 
Albemarle Bertie who, in spite of blindness, 
was an ardent cocker. Round the pit the 
artist shows an audience carefully selected to 
show persons of every grade of society ; the 
person upon whose back a gallows is rudely 
chalked is supposed to be the public hangman, 
but the device might equally be meant to 
indicate a criminal. The shadow of the basket 
which has been raised to the roof with its 
occupant is seen upon the pit 

Although George III kept game-cocks and 
had the famous feeder Joseph Gilliver, there is 
nothing in the numerous memoirs of his time 
to show that this king ever entered a cock-pit. 
Gilliver fought the royal birds in the royal pit 
at Windsor, but it need hardly be said that the 
proceeding does not necessarily imply royal 
interest. Cocking was the national sport in 
the most sweeping sense of the term 



"6 

No sport has ever held the same place in the 
affections of the English people ; and game- 
cocks in those days were as naturally an 
appanage of Royalty as a racing stud in our 
own time. They were kept as an evidence of 
the sovereign's interest in the amusements of 
his people, and so far as history reveals, 
George III found no more personal interest in 
the Royal game-cocks and their doings in the 
pit than did the Sailor King William IV in the 
Royal stud of thoroughbreds and their doings 
on the turf 



LONDON COCKING IN GEORGE Ill's TIME 

The patronage of the throne w T as not required 
to preserve the vitality of cocking. It flour- 
ished as vigorously as ever all over the country. 
A map of London dated 1761, has the following 
evidence of the number of pits or resorts 
identified with cocking: "Cock Alleys" were 
ten in number ; " Cock Courts " nine ; " Cock 
Yards " eight ; " Cock Lanes " four 

In addition to these there were Cock Hill, 
Cockpit Alley, Cockpit Buildings, Cockpit 
Street, Court, and Yard, Cocks' Rents and, 
not least, Cockspur Street, which derived its 
name from the fact that the best known makers 



of cock spurs, Clay, Smith, Foulmin, Garfield 
and others, carried on their business there 

There was in Drury Lane a cock-pit 
notorious for the disorderly character of those 
who frequented it. The London apprentices, 
4k virtuous by custom immemorial," as Sir 
Walter Besant observes * with gentle irony, 
used to wreck this cock-pit every Shrove 
Tuesday; just as in Charles II's time they 
wrecked houses of ill-fame in Moorfields 

Another notorious London cock-pit in George 
Ill's time was that in Pickled Egg Walk, 
Clerkenwell. County mains took place at this 
pit ; the Gentlemen of London fought the 
Gentlemen of Essex, and the cockers of 
Middlesex fought those of Wiltshire here in 
1775, for example. But such matches were 
only occasional features in the regular pro- 
gramme of the house, which ordinarily was a 
favourite resort of rogues and vagabonds 

In i 774, what would now be called an l< open 
letter " w r as addressed to the celebrated 
Magistrate, Sir John Fielding, in the Public 
Advertiser, calling upon him to close the 
Pickled Egg Walk Cock-pit, because " the very 
dregs assemble there two or three times a 
week to fight cocks and gamble '' 



* Survey of London 



78 

AGITATION AGAINST COCKING 

The more humane among the population had 
always strongly condemned cocking, and during 
George Ill's reign many were the pamphlets 
written and sermons preached against it. There 
are in the Elsenham Library a few such 
pamphlets or tracts, intended to strike terror 
into the minds of those who bore part in cock- 
ing ; the usual form is an "authentic narrative 
of a cock-fighter " who came by sudden death 

A wiser note is struck in a pamphlet of 
1761, entitled Clemency to Brutes, which 
appeals to the humane instincts of the reader. 
The Methodists, seeking as they did the moral 
improvement of the lower classes, were par- 
ticularly active in the warfare against cockino-. 

J O O 

It is recorded of John Wesley that during a 
preaching tour in Cornwall he arrived at 
Gwenap's Pit * at a moment when a main was 
actually in progress. The famous preacher 
waited quietly until the fight was over and 
then delivered his address 



* Gwenap's Pit is on a hill near Redruth ; it is said 
to be the oldest and the largest in England. The pit, 
or fighting arena, is 13 feet in diameter, and round 
it rise twelve tiers of seats, stoned faced, 18 inches high 
and 3 feet wide. It is surrounded at the top by a wall,. 
150 yards in circumference This structure is considered 
to date from pre- Roman times. 



79 

Public feeling, however, still warmly upheld 
the cocker as it upheld bull and bear baiting 
and dog-fighting. Hutchinson in his History 
of Cumberland, 1 794, states that the principal 
amusements of the people were wrestling and 
cock-fighting 

When the law interfered it was in the 
interests of peace ; the Walsall authorities, in 
1 789, threatened ale-house keepers with for- 
feiture of their licences if they encouraged or 
abetted bull-baiting or cock-fighting ; but for 
the same reason that the Weclnesbury and 
Darlaston Authorities had taken the step in 
previous years simply because the proceed- 
ings so frequently ended in riot 

Among the vast majority, the idea ol 
humanity was literally non-existent. A Shrews- 
bury cocker laid a wager that a cock of his 
breeding would fight, though on fire, and, 
drenching the unfortunate bird w r ith turpentine, 
set it alight in the pit. This incident was 
cited as proof of the game-cock's extraordinary 
courage and passion for fighting, and not as 
proof of man's brutality 

POPULARITY OF COCKIKG 

It was the spirit of the age. It is very 
difficult for us to realise how <>reat was the 



So 

place in the life of our ancestors held by cock 
fighting. Many among the clergy took active 
part in the sport ; it was not unusual when 
town beat town in a long main to ring the 
church bells in celebration of the victory. 
Travellers would arrange with the coachman 
that the stage coach should wait over the night 
if there w r ere a cock-fight in any town on the 
road. Apprentices were forbidden to keep 
game-cocks during the first seven years of their 
indentures 

The relative importance attached to racing 
and cocking is shown by an incident which 
occurred at Chester in 1 834. It was represented 
to the Executive of the race meeting that the 
battles in the pit were likely to be well fought 
and prolonged, and that the main would not 
be over at the hour fixed to begin racino-. The 

o o 

Clerk of the Course made no demur to post- 
ponement of the first race till three o'clock 

George Roberts* mentions the building of a 
special posting carriage at a cost of ^500 to 
bring certain cocks up from Cornwall to fight 
in London. The evil effects of travel on 
fighting birds has already been noticed, and 
this was an endeavour to bring them to the 
pit in good trim 

* Social History of the Southern Counties of England. (1856) 



FAMOUS COCKERS 

Space has forbidden notice of individual 
cockers, but mention must be made of the 
1 2th Earl of Derby for two reasons : first, 
because he was recognised as the foremost 
cocker of his time, holding his own with the 
Knowsley breed of Black-breasted Reds, famous 
for nearly 300 years, throughout his long life ; 
and second, because he was the last English 
peer to take prominent part in the sport 

Succeeding to the title at the age of twelve 
years Lord Derby came of age in 1775, and 
throughout his life was devoted to cocking. 
He built a pit at Preston at his own expense 
(in 1868 this building had been converted into a 
temperance hall), and he always fought his birds 
at the Preston and Liverpool race meetings 

Lord Derby's great antagonist was General 
Yates, whose breed of cocks was considered 
equal to that of Knowsley. The usual stake on 
the main was 1,000 guineas, but it was fre- 
quently 2,000 and even 3,000 guineas. After 
General Yates died, Mr. Thomas Leigh and 
Mr. Houghton (afterwards Sir Henry 
Houghton) were the cockers against whom 
Lord Derby often pitted his birds 

Lord Derby's name first occurs in the cock- 
fighting returns of the Racing Calendar for 



when his cocks fought Mr. Wharton's at 
Preston races and beat them. Richardson was 
his feeder at that time. He owed his subse- 
quent career of success to Paul Potter, one of 
the most skilful feeders of the time, and after- 
wards to Potter's son. When Lord Derby 
died, at the age of 82, in 1834, all his birds, 
spurs, bags, and fighting equipment became the 
property of the younger Potter, who thence- 
forward kept a tavern at Hartlebury 

Cock bags were usually made of linen ; Lord 
Derby's were of silk, with a fighting cock 
embroidered in colours. Wealthy cockers 
frequently had bags of velvet with their family 
crest embroidered thereon. "County" bags 
were made of velvet or silk, adorned with gold 
lace and some appropriate device. For carrying 
cocks on horseback in cold weather, bags lined 
with flannel were sometimes used 

TRAINING IN GEORGE Ill's TIME 

The system of training* at this time had 
undergone further changes ; the least valuable 
stao-s of a brood were armed with short silver 

o 

spurs and pitted against one another, to prove 
the courage and gameness of their brothers. 



* Condensed from Thos. Bourne's article in Rees ? 
Cyclopedia. (1808) 



83 

The training- of birds intended for the pit 
occupied eight or ten days in place of the long 
preparation favoured by cockers of 1600-1/00, 
and the old plan of sweating or " stoving " had 
been abandoned 

A cock, if well walked, would come up in 
good condition, but too fat to fight, and needed 
reducing. His tail and spurs having been cut, 
he was put into his pen. The first day was 
one of starvation to prepare him for the purging 
physic he was to receive on the second day ; 
after physic he was allowed to spar, his cut 
spurs muffled, with another cock till he showed 
signs of weariness, when he was restored to his 
pen and given a large teacup of warm food, 
bread and milk sweetened with sugar candy. 
The food eaten, he was shut up closely till next 



morning 



On the third morning, his pen having been 
cleaned out and his feet carefully cleaned, he 
was given a meal of cock bread, for which this 
was the recipe : to 3 Ibs. of fine flour, two eggs, 
four whites of eggs and a little yeast ; knead 
with water and well bake. Of this the bird 
received a teacupful of small pieces twice in 
the clay. Water was considered injurious ; on 
the fourth clay, early in the morning, he got 
half a teacup of barley and a little water in 
which toast had been steeped. His pen was 



S 4 

left uncovered for an hour ; in the afternoon he 
was given another half cup of barley, but no 
water. On the fifth day, three meals of cock 
bread, but no water 

The sixth was "weighing day"; early in 
the morning the bird received some cock bread. 
After he had passed the scales, he was given a 
good meal of barley and water, and sometimes 
a little minced sheep's heart. On the seventh 
clay his morning meal was barley, that in the 
afternoon cock bread and the white of a hard 
boiled egg ; also a little water 

Throughout this course of training he was 
kept quiet in a room from which light was 
excluded for the greater part of the day 

On the eighth day he received about forty 
grains of barley, and was then prepared for the 
pit : he was "cut out " for fighting, i.e., wings 
rounded, hackle and saddle feathers cut shorter, 
feathers about the vent cut close off, and the 
feathers of the tail cropped, leaving only the 
vane or fan whose length was reduced by half. 
He was then ready to be "shown " in the pit, 
preliminary to being heeled for fighting 

This w r as the course of preparation for eight 
days ; but ten days \vas the more usual period. 
Eight ounces was as much as any cock should 
gain or lose during the training 



85 

As the cocks in a main were pitted according' 
to weight, the lightest fighting first and the 
heaviest last, there was time to feed up the 
larger and heavier birds between weighing clay 
and the day they were to fight. As said on a 
former page, the cock might be feel as the owner 
pleased after the bird had been weighed, and 
the licence thus allowed gave scope for the 
exercise of the feeder's art 

Some skill was required to "heel " the cock 
properly ; if the spurs were fastened too tightly 
the bird's perfect freedom of movement would 
be affected ; if too loosely, the spurs might be 
displaced or broken at the critical moment. 
The aim was to place the spur exactly in the 
line of the natural weapon, which had been 
clipped 

The " General Rules and Orders for 
Cocking " in force at this time will be found in 
Appendix B 

" SUBSCRIPTION " MAINS 

There appears to have been what would now 
be called a "boom " in London cocking, about 
1790-1800. Mr. Ralph Nevill, in his recent 
book * on gaming, states that more subscription 
mains were fought at the Royal cock -pit in 



Light Come, Light go. (1907) 



86 

i 793 than had been seen there for many years 
A "subscription main" was one in which a 
number of cockers entered one, two or more 
birds each ; the birds being paired to fight by 
drawing lots. Among the London cock- pits 
of which mention is made about this time or 

during the first decades of the nineteenth 
& 

century are the Moss Alley, Bankside, South- 
wark, New Pit, Hoxton, and Little Grosvenor 
Street, Millbank. This last is mentioned 
in 1831 as the " New Royal Cock-pit" 

COCK-FIGHTING DURING THE REGENCY 
Among the leading cockers of this period 
were the Duke of Northumberland, the Duke 
of Hamilton and the Earl of Mexborough, 
Lord Vere and Lord Lonsdale : Lord Derby's 
prominent part has been already noticed 

In 1814, Lord Lonsdale organised a main for 
the benefit of the Allied Sovereigns. In 1817, 
the Grand Duke Nicholas of Russia, accom- 
panied by the Duke of Devonshire, the Russian 
Ambassador, Sir Wm. Cong re ve, Baron 
Nichola, General Kutusoff and others went to 
the Cock-pit Royal and spent an hour and a 
half watching five battles, in which the Russian 
visitors were greatly interested, never before 
having seen a cock-fight * 

* Social England in the Regency, By John Ashton 



8; 

George IV, when Prince Regent, was 
exceedingly fond of the cock-pit. It is said 
that on one occasion he and the Duke of York 
lost so much money over a main, that they had 
to send out to a neighbouring tavern to borrow 
what was necessary to pay their losses. The 
keeper of the tavern was given a free licence 
in recognition of this service to royalty 

In the year 1814, appeared a little book,* 
now rare and much prized by collectors, which 
gives an admirable account of the methods of 
the cock master during the Regency 

This work was written by W. Sketchley of 
Nottingham as the fruit of fifty years' experience. 
The intending cocker who proposed to establish 
a breed of his own, is advised to seek every 
opportunity of being present at regular mains, 
and seeing well-bred brothers whose mode of 
fighting is good ; they must be steady, good 
heelers, oi ready mouth and " deep game." 
Brothers would not always prove equally good ; 
but if close in-bred to a regular set of sisters, 
this might be expected to correct any defects 
in the progeny 

Black-reds were most esteemed, but different 
breeds were preferred in various parts of the 



The Cocker. By W. Sketchley 



88 



country, namely Piles, Black-reds, Silver black- 
breasted Ducks (or Duckwings), Birchin Ducks, 
Dark Greys, Mealy Greys, Blacks, Spangles, 
Furnaces, Pole-cats, Cuckoos, Gingers, Red 
Duns, Duns and Smokey Duns : there were 
good birds in all these breeds. Cheshire Piles 
had always been favourites. Sketchley also 
had a high opinion of Shropshire Reds 

The Piles were eminently distinguished for 
their "deadly heel"; the lighter coloured 
Piles wielded their weapons in a more dangerous 
direction than any other strain of game-fowl, 
but by reason of their delicacy of constitution 
they were liable to degenerate 

In and in breeding too long continued, serious 
loss of blood in a fight, and undiscovered internal 
injuries during a fight were the causes of 
constitutional defects in progeny. The two 
latter causes led to the preference of a 
maiden - cock over a " fought cock " for 
breeding purposes 

A great point to aim at was uniformity; it 
was considered a great mistake to mate a cock, 
because he was a good one, with hens unlike 
himself. When a cocker pitted a "regular 
set of brothers " so like one another that it 
was hard to distinguish between them, their 



9 

uniformity always drew a round of applause 
from the spectators 

Youth on both sides was most desirable in 
mating ; if stags were put to two-year-old hens, 
and cocks to pullets, the breeder might safely 
continue in the same blood for years, provided 
he never used cock or hen after the bird was 
two years old 

The Earl of Derby's success is cited as 
proving the importance of regular breeding 
on a proved system and careful attention. 
From four to six hens were allowed to each 
cock. "Full blood" mating was approved;" 
father with daughter, mother with son, brother 
with sister. Something about character might 1 
be learned from the cock's treatment of his 
hens ; if he bullied them he might be suspected 
as a coward 

Birds of high bearing were preferred to 
"low setting" cocks ; they always had odds in 
their favour as fighters. Sketchley did not 
like the " shifty " or artful cock, even though 
the bird of this class did sometimes win his 
battle. He mentions the prowess of a Ginger 
Red he possessed about the year 1/72; this 
bird fought five mains in one year without 
injury 



9 o 

Here it may be noted that cock masters who 
long survived the legal prohibition of the sport 
attributed the superior quality of the table 
poultry they knew in their youth, partially at 
least, to the fact that game-fowls were bred in 
great numbers and always from young birds. 
The promising cock was taken up at two years 
old for the pit and his place as brood cock 
taken by a stag. Thus our fathers and grand- 
fathers were constantly breeding from young, 
healthy, vigorous birds of the most perfect 
shape and conformation 

Much importance was attached to intimate 
knowledge by the feeder of the birds in his 
care ; the more experience the man had with 
his employer's cocks the greater the prospect 
of success. Sketchley attributes the fact that 
his own Black Reds won five out of six mains 
against Mr. Cussans' Greys at Loughborough 
and Derby, to his retention throughout of John 
Beestal as his feeder, whereas Mr. Cussans 
discharged his feeder and engaged a ne\v one 
for each main 

Cocks were very liable to change in con- 
stitution if moved from the country of their 
birth. Sketchley's remark in this sense must 
be- understood as applying to the movement of 
birds from one district in England to another ; 



but it recalls Mons. de Saussure's statement, 
given on page 61, that game-cocks lose their 
courage when exported to France 

Sketchley lays stress on the necessity for 
trying cocks, as opposed to the trials of stags 
advocated by earlier authorities. A trial of 
stags (as recommended in Rees's Cyclopedia) 
was not in his opinion to be depended on to 
show how the youngsters would turn out. He 
objected to March battles, as the birds had not 
at that time of the year reached their best ; he 
adds that birds are "now (1814) at least two 
months later in completing their feather than 
they were thirty years ago," and the ist of 
June was early enough to pit cocks in 
independent mains 

1 here are some interesting suggestions also, 
in a small book entitled il Directions for 
Breeding Game Cocks including instructions 
for the choice of a Cock and Hens to breed 
from ; with calculations for Betting, &c., &c.," 
the second edition of which was published in 
1818. I have not been able to discover when 
the book was first published 

Search among old records fails to reveal any 
particulars of the main fought at Lincoln in 
1815, for which Joseph Gilliver "fed" the 
birds of one cocker. This main consisted of 



9 2 

seven battles, of which Gilliver won five, and is 
famous in cocking annals by reason of the sums 
staked, ^1,000 on each battle and ,5,000 the 
main 

COCKING IN GEORGE IV's REIGN 

London cocking seems to have declined 
during the reign of George IV (1820-1830), 
though the Sovereign took great interest in the 
sport and kept game-cocks, under Gilliver's 
care ; but there was soon a revival. A corre- 
spondent of the Sporting Magazine of 1830 
writes, that as " cocking has now become so 

o 

much more patronised in town than some years 
past,'' he hopes the editor will give more 
detailed accounts of mains 

After the destruction of the old Royal Cock- 
pit, Dartmouth Street, in 1816, the Royal 
Cock-pit in Tufton Street became the head- 
quarters of cocking ; a three clays main between 
Middlesex and Gloucestershire was fought 
there in February, 1830. The Tufton Street 
pit was the only place where * long mains and 
great subscription matches were fought at this 
time in London. This pit, which was built by 
subscription, was circular ; in the centre was a 



* Cocking and Its Votaries. By S. A. T. (1885) 



93 

mound of earth about 20 feet across, sur- 
rounded by boarding- to prevent the birds 
falling 1 off, and covered with matting. There 

o o 

were six tiers of seats, and behind the upper- 
most a gallery, where spectators might stand 

In 1 830 also a West country cocker challenged 
All England to fight for seven successive years, 
jo guineas a battle and 200 guineas the main, 
in any London pit, the meeting to take place 
during the week before Epsom Races 

Infinite care was taken of cocks on a 
journey at this period. When Thomas Bourne, 
the celebrated feeder who wrote, or dictated, the 
article on cocking published in Rees' Cyclo- 
pedia, fed for Colonel Buller, he had on one 
occasion to convey cocks from Cheltenham to 
fight a main for ^1,000 at Plymouth. He took 
the birds in a van and spent nine days on the 
journey, travelling at a walk with men in front 
to remove from the road all large and loose 

o 

stones that might jolt the conveyance with the 
cocks ! * 

Nothing more clearly illustrates the mental 
attitude of the public mind towards cock-fighting 

* It must be borne in mind that the roads of England 
in those days were very different from the roads of our 
own time. Some information on this subject will be 
found in Eayly Carriages and Roads, published by me in 
1903. The description of a highroad by the famous 
agriculturist, Arthur Young, will be found on page 89 of 
that work 



94 

at this period than the fact that the -clergy still 
bore active part in it, not only without reproach, 
but with the same freedom as they might hunt 
or shoot. A noteworthy cocker for nearly fifty 
years was Professor John Wilson, known by 
his writings as " Christopher North " : Wilson 
frequented the cock-pit regularly during his 
Oxford days from 1803 to 1807 ; when he 
settled at Elleray on the shores of Windermere 
he devoted much time and care to breeding 
game-fowl, and on at least one occasion fought 

a main in his drawing-room 

& 

When he became Professor of Moral 
Philosophy at the University of Edinburgh, a 
position modern ideas would regard as wholly 
incompatible even with countenance of the 
sport, he continued his interest in cocking, and 
in his leisure hours was generally to be seen 
with a cock under his arm. Professor Wilson 
died in 1854 

The number of persons addicted to the 
sport in the twenties may be inferred from 
Captain Ross' experience when he accepted 
Lord Kennedy's challenge to a cock match in 
1825. Captain Ross asked Dr. Wing, who 
lived near Melton, to lend him birds ; Dr. Wing 
placed all his cocks at Captain Ross' disposal 
and mentioned the matter to friends ; with the 







Tom Hines, the Birmingham Cock'Setter 



95 

result that between 300 and 400 of the best 
birds in England were brought in to Melton, 
that a selection might be made. The opening 
chapters of Silk and Scarlet, by The Druid 
(H. H. Dixon), bear witness to the prevalence 
of cocking in Leicestershire 

A feature in the method of reporting cock- 
fights during George Ill's reign and later 
deserves a word of notice ; instead of heading 
the record of battles and byes with the names 
of the owners, those of the feeders were in- 
serted 

To take a comparatively late example, when 
Lancashire fought Cheshire at the Liverpool 
Race Meeting in July, 1836, Hines, feeder for 
the former county, was credited with 27 battles 
and 1 2 byes, while Woodcock, feeder for 
Cheshire, was credited with 1 2 battles and 8 
byes 

The practice demonstrates the great im- 
portance which attached to the work of the 
feeder when the treatment of game-fowl became 
fully understood. Tom Hines, mentioned 
above, was a Birmingham man, famed as a 
feeder and cock setter. During the last fifty 
or sixty years of legal cocking the feeder 
appears to have made over the duty of " setting 
to " the cocks in the pit to a colleague or helper 



9 6 

Avho was called the 4< setter-to." The rules, 
given on page 108 (Appendix B), bear 
evidence of comparatively modern remodelling 
in their reference to this official 

LAST DAYS OF COCKING 

After Queen Victoria's accession in 1837, a 
tide of opinion against cock-fighting set in, and 
as a public spectacle it ceased to be fashion- 
able. One of the last mains fought publicly in 
London, so far as some search has revealed, 
took place in Battersea Fields in the year 1840, 
Lord Berkeley being one of the cockers, and 
William Gilliver, son of Joseph, the other 

This was in some sort an evasion of the Act of 
1833, "For the More Effectual Administration 
of Justice in London" ; a law which made an end 
of houses for bear-baiting and cock-fighting 
within five miles of Temple Bar, and neces- 
sarily put an end to public cocking in London 

The Racing Calendar of 1840 contained the 
last cocking report published in that work ; it 
refers to a main fought at the Liverpool July 
Meeting between Tom Hines and Potter, son 
of Paul Potter, who died in 1833, 5 sovereigns 
a battle and 200 sovereigns the main. Only 
the feeders' names are given, but this must not 



97 

be taken to mean that the birds belonged to 
persons who wished to conceal their names 

Potter, as before stated, had become possessor 
of the birds and cocking outfit belonging 1 to his 

o o o 

old master, Lord Derby, after the latter's 
death, and it is quite likely that both he and 
Hines were the actual owners of the birds 
fought 



Cock-fighting- as a sport openly followed 
came to an end in 1849, under " An Act for 
the More effective Prevention of Cruelty to 
Animals " * which forbade the keeping of house 
or place for baiting or fighting animals. But 
it "died hard," John Harris, the Cornish 
cocker, to whose Life and Letters several 
references have been made, says that the Easter 
cocking of 1850, between Norfolk and Suffolk, 
a four days main, was " the greatest meeting 
ever held in England " 

There was an Easter cocking at the Gallow- 
gate Pit, Newcastle, in 1850, which lasted ten 
days ; there were some 300 entries, and most 
of the programme consisted of 16 cock \Yelsh 
mains for 50 guineas each. The Welsh main 
was the usual method of cocking in the Carlisle 
district. The last Gold Cup fought for in 



12 and 13 Vic., c. 92, sec. 3 

II 



England was at Newcastle. The mains were 
fought from 1853 to T ^54 

Harris says, he thinks " the last list published 
was Easter, 1867." This list apparently referred 
to a North Country meeting 

> o 

In 1875, a main was fought at Brawn ton 
between Paignton and A In wick. Harris tells 
a story of an interrupted main at Preston. 
Among the spectators was the Mayor, and when 
the police appeared the Mayor tried to hide 
in the chimney ; he w r as too stout to clo more 
than get half w r ay ; and it was said the officers 
of the law recognized the Chief Magistrate's 
nether extremities and refrained from helping 
him clown 

Harris used to travel all over the Kingdom, 
after the Act of 1849 was passed, to serve his 
numerous patrons. It was for long the custom 
to hold mains in private houses as an after- 
dinner entertainment for guests. Harris died, 
at the age of 80, in February, 1910 

ILLEGAL COCK-FIGHTING 

Cock-fighting is still carried on quietly, more 
particularly in the Northern Counties, where, a 
Cumberland friend maintains, the people still 
"wrestle all day and fight cocks all night/' 



99 

Now and again cases of cock-fighting are 
detected by the police or the agents of the 
R.S.P.C.A. and legal proceedings follow 

A test case was decided in 1863 by the Court 
of Appeal (Morley and others v. Greenhalgh) : 
the cockers were convicted of an offence under 
12 and 13 Vic., and successfully appealed on 
the ground that the old stone quarry where 
the main was fought did not constitute a 
"place" within the meaning of the Act. It 
being obvious that the old quarry was not 
"kept" for cocking, the conviction was 
necessarily quashed . 

Another case in the same year which excited 
considerable feeling was that against the 
Marquis of Hastings, who fought a main on 
his own premises at Castle Donington 

The last famous case of illegal cocking in 
London took place on 2ist April, 1865, when 
the proprietor of the Queen's Head Tavern, 
Queen's Head Passage, Great Windmill Street, 
was summoned for allowing a cock-fi^ht on his 

o o 

premises, and a large number of participators 
and onlookers of all social grades were sum- 
moned for " abetting. " The defendants, by 
the way, included W. Gilliver, grandson of the 
Roval feeder to George III and IV. All were 

J o 

convicted and fined 



IOO 

The Gallowgate Pit attached to the Bay 
Horse Inn, Newcastle-on-Tyne, was the last 
public pit used in England ; there is every 
reason to suppose that mains were fought there, 
without undue ostentation, for many years after 
the passing of the Act of 1849 : but the place 
escaped the attention of the authorities until 
1874 when it was " raided" by the police 

As a legal sport, or at least as one which the 
law was not empowered to put down, cocking 
continued in Scotland until recent years, though 
apparently it was not often practised. In April, 
1895, nine battles were fought in a field near 
Bishopton in Renfrewshire before a large 
crowd ; the affair was carried through without 
concealment and without hindrance, the High 
Court of Justiciary in Edinburgh having 
ruled, in 1892, that cocking was not illegal. 
Attention was drawn to the matter in the 
House of Commons, and the Lord Advocate 
promised a Bill to make the law of Scotland 
uniform with that of England 

MODERN SALE OF COCK SPURS 

A sale of cock spurs and other matters 
connected with the sport took place in June, 
1903, at Messrs. Sothebys. The spurs included 
some curiosities. One pair illustrated the 



IOI 

fashion in which the old rules were sometimes 
evaded ; as said on an earlier page, the usual 
system was to fight matches in silver spurs ; 
the lot 77 consisted of steel spurs with silver 
sheaths, which were slipped off by the setter-to 
at the last moment. A spur with one cutting 
edge was probably a relic of Queen Anne's 
time, when "penknife" spurs were sometimes 
used. Some forty pairs of spurs were disposed 
of at this sale, bringing an aggregate of jo 

Spurs, it may be observed, were highly 
valued in old days. Sets of spurs remained in 
the same family for generations, bequeathed by 
will from father to son 

Game-fowls are bred in great numbers all 
over England, and the practice of putting the 
birds out at walks probably still exists. Sir 
Humphrey de Trafford used to insert in leases 
the clause requiring tenants to walk game-cocks, 
and the walks were stocked so lately as 1895 

SUPERSTITIONS OF THE COCK-PIT 

Many and curious were the superstitions 
which pervaded the cock-pit. The practice of 
placing game-fowls' eggs in a magpie's nest to 
be hatched out is very old ; it seems to have 
had origin in the superstition which placed the 



102 

magpie under the special protection of the Evil 
One ; game-cocks thus hatched were called 
"devil's birds'' and regarded as unconquerable 

The use of a magpie's nest for this purpose 
was common, but by no means always indicated 
the user's belief in supernatural advantages. 
There is in the Annals of Sporting for 1824, 
mention of a Welsh main, in which sixteen birds 
were engaged, won by a cock that had been 
hatched out in the nest of a magpie in the 
owner's orchard 

This win gave rise to discussion concerning 

O c~> 

the merits of magpie-hatched game-fowl. An 
old feeder of the Cock-pit Royal, Westminster, 
maintained that cocks so hatched were impudent 
and foolhardy and more inclined to fight at the 
setter's hand than to attack the foe in the pit. 
Some experts thought birds hatched by a magpie 
were particularly strong and courageous; others 
that they were wild and shy grave faults in a 
fighting-cock 

Returning to superstitions : Another very 
strange idea * held in Shropshire was that 
bread which had been consecrated for the Holy 
Communion would give unrivalled strength and 
stamina to the cock that ate it : and to obtain 
possession, cockers would attend at the altar 



* Shropshire Folklore. By Georgina F. Jackson. (1883) 



and secrete the morsel of bread given them by 
the officiating' clergyman 

Again, it was firmly believed that if the clust 
swept from the communion table were sprinkled 
on the pit, this would avert all evil influences 
and charms and ensure victory to the best bird, 
by which, we may safely infer, w r as meant the 
bird owned by him who sprinkled the dust 

The Wellington miners attributed the same 
mysterious quality to earth from the nearest 
graveyard : a little of which sprinkled on the 
pit made victory to the best cock certain 

MODERN USE OE OLD COCK- PITS 

Many cock-pits remain in England, converted 
to various uses. The County Pit at Truro, in 
a six-sided building, said to have been the 
first enclosed cock-pit in Cornwall, is now a 
spirit vault. The Chester pit is a sugar factory, 
that at Carlisle a foundry. Most singular to 
modern ideas is the old Canterbury Corporation 
Pit : this is part of the old St. Augustine's Abbey, 
and until as lately as 1813 was rented by the 
proprietor of an hotel close by. The late 
John Harris states that the last Corporation 
cock-pit to witness a main \vas that at Lichfield. 



104 



APPENDIX A 



RULES AND ORDERS FOR COCKING* 

Imprimis. It is agreed That every man having Cocks to 
fight, shew and put them into the Pit with a fair 
Hackle, not too near shorn or cut, or any other brand, 
under pain of forfeiting, for every time so offending, 
Three shillings and Four pence ; and his Cock to be put 
by from Fighting that Year 

// Item. That every Cock matched shall fight as he is 
first shewed in the Pit, without sheering or cutting any 
Feathers afterwards to a Disadvantage, without the 
consent of both Parties that made the Match, upon 
pain of forfeiting, for every time so offending, ten 
shillings 

/// Item. That when two Cocks are set down to fight, 
and one of them run away before they have struck three 
Mantling Blows, it is adjudged no Battle to the Bettors 

IV Item. That in all Matches none shall presume to set 
to, but those appointed by the Masters of the Match 

V Item. That when a Battle come to setting to, and 
both Cocks refuse to fight ten times, according to the 
Law, then a fresh Cock to be hovell'd and set to each 
Cock ; and if one fight and the other refuse, then the 
fighting Cock to win the Battle : but if both fight or 
both refuse, then 10 be a drawn Battle 

Item. That the crowing of a cock on Mantling in his 
Battle, shall be adjudged no fight : and if both be 



* From An Historical List of Horse Matches Run in 1751. 
Reginald Heber. It is not possible to say for how many years 
these rules had then been in force 



blind, although they peck and fight, yet they shall be 
set to, telling the Law betwixt every time 

VI Item. That when Cocks are far spent and come to 
setting together, it is ordered, That they shall be set 
to as followeth (that is to say) Bill to Bill if they both 
see : but if either be blind, then the blind Cock to touch ; 
if either be drawn neck'd, then his Head to be held fair., 
and even with the other Cock, so that the Party do 
his best in setting to, to make his Cock fight : Pro- 
vided That after they come to be set thus as aforesaid, 
between every setting to they shall stay till one tell 
Twenty before they are set to again, until the Law of 
two times are forth, and then to tell Ten but ten 
times 

VII Item. It is ordered that when a Cock is so hurt 
that any of the Pit shall lay ten Pounds to five 
shillings, that after the Cocks fighting shall be told 
twice twenty, and if no Man will take that Lay, then 
the Battle to be adjudged w r on on that Cock's side the 
Odds is on 

VIII Item. That no Man shall make any Cavil or 
Speech about Matching of Cocks, either to the 
Matchers or the Owners of the Cocks after the Cocks 
be once put together ; upon pain of forfeiting five 
shillings for every time so offending 

IX Item. That all Losses in the Cockpit be presently 
paid down at the End of every Battle before any 
other be fought ; or else that the Party winning be 
satisfied before the party losing go out of Doors : and 
also that every Man pay good current Money 

A' Item. Whosoever they be which shall put any Lay 
or Belt to Judgment, being in variance, they both 
shall stake down the Money laid on either side, and 
Sixpence a piece over, and the Party that is adjudg'd 
to be in the wrong shall pay his Bett, and lose his Six- 
pence : Provided That every man speak freely before 



io6 



Judgment given, what he thinks thereof: and if any 
Man speak afterwards, he shall, for every such 
offence in speaking, pay Sixpence 

XI Item. That all Betts made either within or without 
the Pit shall stand good : and that one cannot go off 
without consent of the other, and all Betts un- 
demanded before the next Battle fights, to be lost 

XII Item. If any Man have made a Lay or Beit, and 
cannot tell, or call to mind with whom he laid or 
betted such a Lay, then if he desire openly in the Pit 
that the Party with whom he laid would give him the 
one half of the same, if he doth not confess it, and give 
him the one half of the same, then it is allowed anyone 
that knows the Bett to declare it, and the Party so 
refusing to confess it, shall pay the whole Bett: Provided 
That no Man may tell before the Party said he is con- 
tended to take as aforesaid ; but if any man do tell 
him before the Party said he is content to take the 
Half of his Bett then the Party so telling is to pay the 
said Lay or Bett 

XIII Item. If any Man lay more Money than he hath 
to pay, or cannot satisfy the Party with whom he 
hath laid, either by his Credit or some Friend's 
Word : the which if he cannot do, then he is to be 
put into a Basket to be provided for that purpose, and 
to be hanged up in that Basket in some convenient 
Place in the Cock-pit that all men may know him, 
during the time of Play that Day ; and also the Party 
so offending never to be admitted to come into the Pit 
until he hath made satisfaction 

XIV Item. That if any Man in a Pit shall prefer a 
Bett and the Party that lays with him say Done, and 
he answers Done to him again, it shall be judged a 
lawfull Bett 

XV Item. It is ordered, That Persons of the better 
Rank and Quality of the Cockers, Cock Masters and 



Gamesters, such as are appointed to set to Cocks and 
put them fair in and no others (without permission of 
the Mastcy of the Pit] shall set in the lower Ring ; and 
that the said Master of the Pit shall have Authority 
at all times to remove such as he thinks not meet to 
set in the lower or second King : and also make room 
for those that are of the better sort and to place them 
there at his pleasure according to his Discretion 

XVI Item. It is ordered, That all Controversies which 
arise or come by means of the Sport of Cock-fighting 
upon any of the Orders above written, or otherwise 
between Party and Party, shall be determined by the 
Master of the Pit where the said Controversy did arise, 
with Six or Four of the ancient and best experienced 
Gamesters there, being called by the Consent of both 
Parties, to assert him therein 

XVII Item. That none shall strike or draw Weapon to 
strike any Man upon pain, for every time so offending 
of Forty Shillings 

XVIII Item. For the better observation of all the 
Orders before written, It is ordered and agreed That if 
any Person shall offend in any of the said Premises, he 
presently pay his Forfeiture ; the which being adjudged, 
if he shall refuse to do. then the Party so refusing to 
be banished ; until he satisfy the Forfeiture by him so 
committed or the Party so offended 

XIX Item. It is ordered, That the Forfeitures above said 
shall be equally divided, the one Moiety thereof to be paid 
to the Use of the Poor of the Parish, and the other Moiety 
to be distributed and disposed of, as the Master of the Pit 
shall think fit, unto such Feeders and Ancient Breeders of 
Cocks as are or shall be decayed 



io8 



APPENDIX B 



The following " GENERAL RULES AND ORDERS FOR 
COCKING" are given in the 1808 edition of Hoyle's 
Games. It is not possible to say when the Rules received 
this, their final, shape, but the references to the "setters- 
to" indicate the latter part of the eighteenth century. 
It will be remarked that these Rules define with far 
greater precision and minuteness the manner in which 
cocks were to be fought and handled than the Code of 
Rules published in the Racing Calendar of 1751. It will 
also be observed that there are no provisions concerning 
the seating and conduct of spectators, that the old Rules 
about wagering are condensed and simplified into a 
single law, and that there is no mention of the " basket " 
as a punishment for defaulters. All these things point 
to the extreme likelihood that this Code of Rules and 
Orders is referable to 1780-1800, or thereabout. At the 
same time it will be observed they include provisions 
which were in force during Charles IPs reign, as has 
been shown by the extracts from Pepys's Diary on 
pages 36-7 :- 

On the weighing morning, that person whose chance is 
to weigh last, is to set his cocks and number his pens 
both main and byes, and leave the key of the pens on 
the weighing table (or, the other party may put a 
lock on the door) before any cock is put into the 
scale ; and after the first pack of cocks is weighed, a 
person appointed by him that weighed first shall go 
into the other pen to see that no other cocks are 
weighed but what are so set and numbered, provided 
they are within the articles of weight that the match 



IOQ 

specifies ; if not to take the following cock or cocks 
until the whole number of main and bye cocks are 
weighed through 

After they are all weighed, proceed as soon as possible 
to match them, beginning at the least weight first and 
so on ; and equal weights or nearest weights to be 
separated provided by that separation a greater 
number of battles can be made; all blanks, that is 
choice of cocks, are to be filled up on the weighing 
day, and the battles divided and struck off for each 
day's play, as agreed on, and the cocks that weigh 
the least are to fight the first day, and so upwards 

At the time agreed on by both parties, the cocks that 
are to fight the first battle are brought upon the pit 
by the feeders or their keepers; and after being 
examined to see whether they answer the marks and 
colours specified in the match-bill, they are given to 
the setters-to who, after chopping them in hand, give 
them to the gentlemen who are called masters of the 
match (who always sit opposite to each other), when 
they turn them down on the mat ; and the setters-to 
are not to touch them unless they either hang in the 
mats, in each other, or get close to the edge of the pit, 
until they have left off fighting, while a person can 
tell forty 

When both cocks leave off fighting, until one of the 
setters-to or a person appointed for telling the law 
can tell forty gradually ; then the setters-to are to 
make the nearest way to their cocks, and, as soon as 
they have taken them up, to carry them to the middle 
of the pit and immediately deliver them on their legs 
beak to beak and not touch them any more until they 
have refused fighting, so long as the teller of the law 
can tell ten, without they are on their backs or hung 
in each other, or on the mat ; then they are to set-to 
again in the same manner as before, and continue it 
till one cock refuses fighting ten several times, one 



1 IO 



after another,* when it is that cock's battle that fought 
within the law 

But it sometimes happens that both cocks refuse fighting 
while the law r is telling ; when this happens, a fresh 
cock is to be hovelled, and brought upon the mat as 
soon as possible, and the setters-to are to toss up 
which cock is to be set-to first, and he that gets the 
chance is to choose. Then the cock who is to be 
set-to last must be taken up, but not carried off the 
pit ; next setting the hovelled cock down to the other, 
five separate times, telling ten between each setting- 
to, and then the same to that which had been taken 
up; and if one fights and the other refuses, it is a 
battle to the fighting cock ; but if both fight or both 
refuse it is a dra\vn battle. The reason of setting-to 
five times to each cock is, that the times setting-to 
being the long law 7 or on their both refusing, the law 
is to be equally divided between them as they are both 
entitled to it alike 

Another way of deciding a battle is, if any person offers 
to lay 10 to a crown and no person takes it until the 
law teller tells forty and calls out three separate times 
" will any one take it ? " and if no one does, it is the 
cock's battle the odds are laid on, and the setters-to 
are not to touch the cocks during the time the forty 
is telling, without either cock is hung in the mat, or 
on his back, or hung togetherf 

If a cock should die before the long law is told out, 
although he fought in the law and the other did not, 
he loses his battle ; for there cannot be a better rule 
for a cock winning his battle than killing his adversary 
in the limited time he is entitled to by cock laws 

There are frequently disputes in setting-to in the long 
law, for often both cocks refuse fighting until four or 



* This was called the " long law " 
t This was called the " short law " 



1 1 1 

five, or more or less times, are told ; then they some- 
times begin telling from that cock's fighting, and 
counting but once refused, but they should continue 
their number on, until one cock has refused ten times ; 
for when the law is begun to be told, it is for both 
cocks ; and if one cock fights within the long law and 
the other not, it is a battle to the cock that fought,, 
counting from the first setting-to 

All disputes about bets, or the battle being won or lost, 
ought to be decided by the spectators, for if the bets 
are not paid nor the battles settled according to the 
judgment then given, it w r ill be a good evidence in law 
if an action is brought for the recovery of such bets 

The crowing and mantling of a cock, or fighting at the 
setter-to's hand before he is put to the other cock, or 
breaking from his antagonist is allowed as no fight 



I I 2 



APPENDIX C 



The "Match Bill" was a list of eacli cocker's birds 
filled in by the person who weighed them ; it was in 
this form : 

A. B.'s Cocks C. D.'s Cocks 

Lbs. 3 ; ozs. 6 i i 

2 2 

3 3 
Lbs. 3 ; ozs. 7 i i 

2 2 

3 3 

and so on up to 4 Ibs. 8 ozs., which was the maximum 
weight under Cock-pit Royal Rules 

Each bird was minutely described and his description 
written in what was known as " Cocker's Short hand " 
against his weight. The following is an example of 
" Cocker's Short hand " * : 

i. Phst. B. Bir. yel. hi. co. clt. ylgs. 4 hd. m n'ls 
wts. 3 Ibs. 3 oz. i gr. 

Which means 

" Pheasant breasted Birchen yellow, high comb, clear 
cut, yellow legs, fours in head (i.e., owner's marks in both 
eyelids and nostrils), middle nails whitest : weight 3 Ibs. 
3 ozs. i grain " 

All provincial names were ignored at the Royal 
Cock-pit, and the birds were described in proper colour 
terms, invariably beginning with the breast, as it was 
never trimmed 

* Life and Letters of John Han-is, the CornisJi Cocker. Privately 
Printed. (1910) 



In the north of England cocks were described in a 
very slipshod manner, thus 

14. Voltigeur red. 3. 4. Parker, 

being the number of the cock's pen, name of the bird, 
a very general note of his colour, his weight in pounds 
and ounces, and lastly the feeder's name 

There were men who made, or augmented, their 
incomes, by attending the cock-pits and taking down 
for patrons the marks and colours of the birds brought 
to the scales. It was not infrequently done by clergy- 
men who, as breeders of game fowl themselves, were 
conversant with technical terms and colours 



APPENDIX D 



Mr. Hackwood* gives the following rules, which 
regulated inter-county and other important matches in 
the last days of cock righting : 

Rule I. The pit shall be circular, 12 feet diameter and 
1 8 inches high, the floor to be covered with carpet 
and a match made in the middle of the pit 

Rule II. The cockers, or pitters, shall each choose a 
judge who shall choose another, whose decisions on 
all questions of fighting and bets shall be final 

Rule III. All cocks to be weighed before being pitted, 
unless in a catch-weight fight : and no bird must be 
handled after fairly delivered unless on permission of 
the referee 

Rule IV. When a cock is fast in his adversary the 
owner shall draw the spurs out but not hold him any 
longer than is necessary for releasing him 

Rule V. If after the cocks have been pitted, they refuse 
to fight while the pitters count ten times ten or a 
hundred, a fresh bird must be pitted and the owners 
must toss which bird is to fight, the winner to have 
choice. The odd bird must be taken up, but not 
away from the pit. If these two refuse it is a drawn 
battle, but if one strike he is the winner 

Rule VI. No pitter shall be permitted during a fight 
to clean his bird's beak or eyes or press him against 
the floor, or squeeze him to make him fight 



*0ld English Sports. By F. W. Hackwood. (1907) 



1 1 



Rule VII. If a cock be disabled by a broken leg or 
blindness from continuing to fight, the pitters shall 
place the birds beak to beak, and if the disabled bird 
does strike the game is won 

Rule VIII. The crowing of a cock is not fighting, nor 
is breaking away from his adversary fighting 

Rule IX. In all cases of appeal, fighting shall cease 
until the referee gives his decision, which shall be 
strictly to the question and final ; the birds not to be 
taken out of the pit, nor the spurs taken off till the 
match is settled 

Rule X. Any pitter guilty of using unlawful means to 
force his bird to fight, such as pinching him or 
pricking him, shall lose the battle 

Rule XL The highest number of battles won to 
decide the main 

Rule XII. All bets must stand unless declared off by 
consent of both parties 



n6 



APPENDIX E 



ARTICLES FOR A COCK MATCH 

AS MADE USE OF AT THE 

COCK-PIT ROYAL, WESTMINSTER* 

ARTICLES of Agreement made the day of 

one thousand eight hundred and .between 

and First, the said parties have agreed that 

each of them shall produce, shew and weigh at the 

on the day of beginning at the 

hour of in morning cocks, none to be 

less than three pounds six ounces, nor more than four 
pounds eight ounces, and as many of each party's 
cocks that come within one ounce of each other shall 

fight for.., a battle, that is each cock : in as 

equal divisions as the battles can be divided into six 
pits, or day's play at the cock-pit before mentioned : 
and the party's cocks that win the greatest number 
of battles matched out of the number before specified 

shall be entitled to the sum of odd battle 

money, and the sum to be staked into the hands of 

Mr before any cocks are pitted by both 

parties. And we further agree to produce, shew and 

weigh on the said weighing days cock for 

bye battles, subject to the same weight as cocks that 
fight in the main, and these to be added to the 
number of main cocks unmatched, and as many of 
them as corne within one ounce of each other shall 

fight for a battle; the number of cocks so 

matched, to be equally divided as will permit of, 
and added to each day's play with the main cocks ; 

* From Directions for Breeding Game Cocks. New Edition. (1818) 



1 1 



and it is also agreed that the balance of the battle 
money shall be paid at the end of each day's play. 
It is also further agreed for the cock to fight in silver 
spurs and with fair hackles, and to be subject to all 
the usual rules of cock-fighting as practised at the 
Cock-pit Royal, Westminster, and the profits arising 
from the spectators to be equally divided between 
both parties, after all charges are paid that usually 
happen on these occasions. Witness our hands the 

day of 1 8 

Witness 



Works by SIR WALTER GILBEY, Bart., 

^ublished by Vinton & Co., 8 Bream's Buildings, Chancery Lane, London, E.G. 



The Royal Family and Farming published igu 

In this work is shown the importance of the part borne by the Sovereigns of England, 
from George III to His present Majesty in agricultural affairs. Octavo, cloth gilt 
price as. net ; post free, 2S. 3d. 

Racing Cups (1559 tO 1850) Published 1910 

Racing Bells, Tankards and Cups from .Stuart to Victorian times, and Coursing 
Cups. Numerous Illustrations. Octavo, cloth gilt, price 55. net ; post free, 55. 4d. 

Farm Stock 100 Years Ago Published 1910 

A period of important changes Conditions under which Stock-breeding was 
carried on Breeds of Sheep, Cattle, Horses, Swine and Poultry. Appendix ; 
Famous Agriculturists of George Ill's time. Fifteen Illustrations. Price5s.net; 
post free, 55. 4d. 

John Thornton, Life of Published 1910 

Cloth gilt, price 2s. net; post free, 2s. .jd. 

Pig in Health & how to avoid Swine Fever. 2 nd Edition Published 1910 

Swine Fever History of the Wild Pig and Diseases in the Olden Time- 
Various Breeds of Pigs, with a Chapter on the Healthy Housing of Swine. 
Six Illustrations. Price 2S. net; post free,. 2s. 3d. 

Horses Past and Present 2 nd Edition Published 1910 

A sketch of the History of the Horse in England from the earliest times. Nine 
Illustrations. Octavo, cloth gilt, price 2s. net ; post free, as. 3d. 

Young Race-Horses Fresh Pastures for Rearing 4 th Edition Published 1910 

Illustrated. Octavo, cloth gilt, price 2s. net ; post free, as. 3d. 

Milk and Milch Animals Published 1908 

A Treatise on Animals used for Milking Purposes by Various Nations. Octavo, 
price is. net ; post tree, is. 2d. 

Horses Breeding to Colour published 1907 

Facts as to the origin of the term " Thoroughbred "History of Race-Horses 
descending from the " Royal Mares" of Charles I How horses of different breeds 
can be bred to colour. Six Illustrations. Price as. net ; post free, as. 3d. 
Second Edition in the press (1912), 

Farms and Small Holdings published 1907 

Previous to 1800, 1,700 private Acts were passed for enclosing Commons and Waste- 
Lands Decay of Fairs and Markets Increase of Auction Marts and Agricultural 
Shows Small Holdings in the Past and at the Present Day. Two Illustrations. 
Price 6d. net ; post free, 7d. 



Modern Carriages Published 1906 

The passenger vehicles now in use, with not 
Octavo, cloth gilt, price 2s. net ; post free, 2S. 3d. 



Horses for the Army a suggestion published 19 o6 

Price 6d. net ; post free, 7d. 

Poultry- Keeping on Farms and Small Holdings Published 1904 

Being a practical treatise on tne production of Poultry and Eggs for the Market. 
Illustrated Price 2s. net ; post free, as. 3d. 



[P.T.O 



SIR WALTER GILBEY'S Works continued 
The Harness Horse 4 th Edition Published ig<u 

The scarcity of Carriage Horses and how to breed them. Twenty-one Chapters. 
Seven full-page Illustrations. Octavo, cloth gilt, price 2s. net; post free, as, 3d, 

Notes on Alcohol published i 9o3 

Showing the relative value of Alcohol in Brandy, Whisky and Rum. Octavo", 
price 6d. net.; post tree, 7d. 

Early Carriages and Roads published 1903 

In this publication attention has been given to the early history of wheeled 
conveyances in England and their development up to recent times. With 
Seventeen Illustrations. Octavo, cloth gilt, price 2s. net ; post free, as. 4d 

Thoroughbred and Other Ponies Published 

With Remarks on the Height of Racehorses since 1700. Being a Revised and 
Enlarged Edition of PONIES PAST AND PRESENT. With Ten Illustrations. 
Octavo, cloth gilt, price 55. net ; post free, 5s. 4d. 

Hunter Sires Published 1903 

Suggestions tor Breeding Hunters, Troopers and General-Purpose Horses. By 
I. Sir WALTER GILBEV. Bart. II. CHARLES W. TINDALI.. III. Right Hon. 
FREDERICK W. WRENCH. IV. W. T. TRENCH. Octavo, paper covers, 6d. net; 
post free, yd. 

Horse-breeding in England and India, and Army Horses 

Abroad Published 1901 

Seventeen Chapters, Horse-breeding in England ; Eight Chapters, Horse-breeding 
Abroad ; Thirteen pages. Horse-breeding in India. Nine Illustrations. Octavo, 
cloth, price as. net ; post free, as. 3d. 

Riding & Driving Horses, their Breeding & Rearing published 1901 

An Address delivered in London on March 2, 1885, and Discussion thereon by 
the late Duke of Westminster, Earl Carrington, Sir Nigel Kingscote, the late 
Mr. Edmund Tattersall, and others. Reprint 1901. Octavo, price as. net; post 
free, as. 3d. 

Small Horses in Warfare Published 1900 

Arguments in favour of their use for light cavalry and mounted infantry. 
Illustrated. Octavo, cloth gilt, price as. net ; post free, as. 3d. 

Animal Painters of England published 1900 

The lives of fifty animal painters, from the year 1650 to 1850. Illustrated. 
Two vols., quarto, cloth gilt, Two Guineas net. 

Animal Painters of England (Second Series) Published 1911 

The lives of forty-six animal painters from the year 1600 to our own day. Illustrated. 
Quarto, cloth gilt ; price i is. net. 

The Great Horse or W^ar Horse Published i8 99 

From the Roman Invasion till its development into the Shire Horse New and 
Revised Edition, 1899. Seventeen Illustrations. Octavo, cloth gilt, price as. net ; 
post free, as. 3d. 

Life of George Stubbs, R.A. Published 1898 

Ten Chapters. Twenty-six Illustrations and Headpieces Quarto, whole Morocco, 
gilt, 3 3 s. net. 



May, 1912 



7 6785-- 




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